Do really expensive Home Theater Systems really make a difference? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 10-14-2011, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a Yamaha YSP-900 Soundbar with a $100 Sony Subwoofer, and I just bought my Sister a $500 Blu-Ray 5.1 System from Sam's Club, and honestly, they both sound mindblowing to me. I could not imagine being happier with my Soundbar. It puzzles me that there are systems out there that cost 10's of thousands of dollars. Can they really make that big of a difference?
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post #2 of 27 Old 10-14-2011, 01:16 PM
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Definitely can make a difference - whether that difference matters to you is another thing though. And as with just about everything, there are diminishing returns, and everyone has their own opinion as far as how much they value the next 10%, 5%, 1%, 0.1% improvement - replace "time" with "$", and "mastery" with "sound quality".

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post #3 of 27 Old 10-14-2011, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Horstkotte View Post

Definitely can make a difference - whether that difference matters to you is another thing though. And as with just about everything, there are diminishing returns, and everyone has their own opinion as far as how much they value the next 10%, 5%, 1%, 0.1% improvement - replace "time" with "$", and "mastery" with "sound quality".


Very nice analogy and some times I wonder myself with 25K plus in mine.

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post #4 of 27 Old 10-14-2011, 08:05 PM
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Uh oh, here we go...

For 90% of people spending <1000 is the most they will ever hear or feel..

For the other 10% we couldn't even seriously listen to a two channel speaker set up at that price, let alone a whole surround set up..

My AVR alone was 1700....

My first DIY project. A dual, dual opposed setup

www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1345494
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post #5 of 27 Old 10-17-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Audiophile34 View Post

Uh oh, here we go...

For 90% of people spending <1000 is the most they will ever hear or feel..

For the other 10% we couldn't even seriously listen to a two channel speaker set up at that price, let alone a whole surround set up..

My AVR alone was 1700....

What makes the difference for you?
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post #6 of 27 Old 10-17-2011, 07:05 PM
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post #7 of 27 Old 10-27-2011, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by WACO View Post

What makes the difference for you?

I know you weren't asking me, but a lot of it has to do with distortion related to volume. Lower-end speakers will likely distort sooner than higher-end. This will make the lesser speakers sound louder at a given volume level, but in reality it is the distortion making them seem louder. Case in point: I went from a JBL Venue series 7.1 system to a Klipsch RF-83 system. The JBLs were around $800 for all of them, and i was VERY pleased the entire time I had them. When I got the Klipsches ($3000 used....would have been in the ballpark of $6k new), they seemed quieter at the same dB (with a sound meter) because they were cleaner. Never mind the addition of 2 Hsu Research VTF-15H subs at $1k each. I actually went from listening to music 5% of the time to about 20% because the music sounded so much better and cleaner. I would never have guessed my JBLs were so unclean.

I couldn't revert back. I could have been just as pleased with less expensive speakers, but I am very very happy with my selection. The sound is SOOOOO phenomenal. And I was skeptical because I thought my JBLS sounded so good.

Besides, how awesome is this:



I know it's not attractive to a lot of people. I have since moved all the extra speakers to other rooms, so it's not quite so tacky:

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post #8 of 27 Old 10-27-2011, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WACO View Post

I have a Yamaha YSP-900 Soundbar with a $100 Sony Subwoofer, and I just bought my Sister a $500 Blu-Ray 5.1 System from Sam's Club, and honestly, they both sound mindblowing to me. I could not imagine being happier with my Soundbar. It puzzles me that there are systems out there that cost 10's of thousands of dollars. Can they really make that big of a difference?

As Claus von Bulow (in the movie) said: You have no idea! There are huge differences to be appreciated but that is a slippery slope. My "low price" system is in the $12K (msrp) range for the audio equipment and, although I love it, it is no patch on my "big" system (~ $85K msrp for audio). Most people who have heard both have no trouble appreciating the superiority of the latter but whether that difference is worth the difference in cost is debatable, for them.

Go to a showroom, hear a good, big system and form your own conclusions.

Kal Rubinson

"Music in the Round"
Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile
http://www.stereophile.com/category/music-round

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post #9 of 27 Old 10-28-2011, 11:15 AM
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Just to chime in with some alternative views.

I have owned systems that had total components with a cost approaching 30k, and trust me, this was not near what other audiophiles were spending even in the late 1970's, early 1980's. System consisted of respected tube pre-amp and four mono-block tube amps powering various bi-amped (not bi-wired) speakers or on occassion strapped for single channel per side. Turntable cost more than my current system. Add tone-arm, various moving coil cartridges and assoicated pre-pre-amps. And finally well respected, but not insanely priced speakers where I could not hear the minute differences that some golden ears professed to hear. Throw in a pair of reasonably expensive (and unreasonably heavy) 12" sub-woofers and the solid state stereo amp to control the monsters. Some people would have called this state of art (my wife called in state of insanity). Sonically, there was little in the way to criticize.

All of this was before CD, so you can tell, I am no spring chicken. The sound was reasonably accurate for the time. Most people hearing a system like this for the first time were stunned.

My current 2-channel system used for music would retail for less than 3k and has sound, at all but unreasonable sound levels would match or better the earlier system. Receiver that sells for under 1k (way under), pair of speakers with better frequency response than my old expensive speakers. Good dynamics, but not quite as good as the old system (this item tends to bring about more realistic sound to my ears than almost any other). No turntable. DVD player with digital output for CD's and digital music. Powered sub-woofer. Less than 1k. Not cheap, but not insane either. Again, much better sound than most people have been exposed to.

I have been looking for more than two years for replacement main speakers (my current 46" towers make good plant stands but otherwise interfere with my lovely wife's decorating scheme). I have tried a number of very expensive smaller speakers, but all lft too much to be desired to change.

Our video is in a different room and has had various multi-channel receivers and multi-channel speakers. None were able to make me happy, including at least two highly rated multi-channel pre-amps with all of the digital bells and whistles to make multi-channel sound come alive.

While I do not possess golden ears, I have yet to hear a pre-amp or receiver at any price that I could not detect the sound processing for multi-channel sound. I can pretty much pick the processing out in double-blind testing 8 or 9 times out of 10 (from actual tests in a local audio salon).

After almost 20 years of attemptig to get multi-channel right, I decided in 2007 to try a sound bar. At the time, Yamaha was the only game in town and I purchased a model near the top including Yamaha's dedicated sub-woofer. After three weeks of playing with projector beams and attempting to get the sound right, I switched to 3.1 sound and lived happily with the Yamaha for two years. Both my wife, son and daughter-in-law could hear the Yamaha sound processing when it was turned on, so it was a no brainer to leave it off.

In 2009, read a short review of Sony's CT-100 and it sounded promising enough, I decided to give it a try. Surprise, to everyone it surpassed the Yamaha and sounded quite good on almost all program material. After about six months, I saw a Vizio soundbar at Wal-Mart for less than $100. For curiousity, I wanted to see what $100 sound could sound like. While not as accurate as either the Yamaha or Sony, Vizio beat both hands down in dynamics. Became my sound of choice for TV and Video for over a year and still handles TV and music in the master bed room.

Stubled upon Davyo's review of the JVC BA1 and ordered one from Amazon. Since it's arrival, it has been consistently in my system and does offer extremely good five channel sound from four speakers without audible sound processing. Let me say I have been impressed and still am.

Way too much info here. But, the question was, can you achieve good sound for very little money? The answer is yes and I enjoy helping friends and family find the right fit for their lifestyle (I almost wrote needs, but don't believe anyone needs good sound, it just makes life more pleasant).

The JVC is a mediocre choice for stand-alone music (we have tried to my wife's dismay - she really wants me to find a new home for my tower speakers). But for everything else, it equals several surround systems that cost more than 2k that have ventured through my home.

As the earlier poster said, there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to audio. In many ways the state of the art is better than it has ever been. However, the amount of the state of the art that has filtered down to popularly priced listening is a wonderful thing.

The biggest problem I see now, which is what I saw in 1973 when I started my journey into audio idiocy, is how easy it is to get reasonably good equipment with the potential to sound good, but somehow end users and many good hi-fi stores still set up equipment to sound like electronic sound instead of setting things up to sound natrual (it is not that hard).

Test things in your home wenever possible. Pay more attention to speakers than electronics. At reasonable sound levels, most electronics sound pretty much the same (boy am I going to get ripped for that remark). When you find something that sounds like music, sit back and enjoy. It certainly beats that morning after feeling when you spend 20,000 dollars on a pre-amp and no one is sure it sounded different from the 200 dollar receiver it replaced.

ps... if you don't listen to records, you don't need a pre-amp.

David Freeman
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post #10 of 27 Old 10-28-2011, 11:38 AM
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Is that a warehouse or a living room?

Solution: FREE. Explanation: I will have to charge$ you.

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post #11 of 27 Old 10-28-2011, 12:18 PM
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it goes to eleven

LOL. Love the reference.
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post #12 of 27 Old 10-28-2011, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBobb View Post

Is that a warehouse or a living room?

LMAO!!
That's my living room



I thought it would look with all my towers together. I have the RF-82s in storage now and the second pair of 83s are in my music room (actually it's the formal dining room I have made into my band room).

I'm planning to go pick up another pair of 83s this weekend for the bedroom.
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post #13 of 27 Old 10-28-2011, 05:52 PM
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.......... But, the question was, can you achieve good sound for very little money? .........

The question was whether really expensive HT systems really make a difference.

The answer depends on what difference you're looking for. I have had inexpensive HT systems and was completely pleased with them. I got the surround effects. I got the faint rumbles of thunder and explosions. If that's all one wants, then no, a really expensive HT system won't make a difference.

Me personally, I love the massive rumbles and quakes that come from the dual VTF-15H subs. I love the way the floor and couch seem to bounce and shake through earthquakes and explosions. I love the huge dynamics and clarity (low distortion) my moderately large speakers provide. And to me, it even looks cool having these beasts hanging on the wall and standing on each side of the TV.

So...me before my first "expensive" system, I was more than happy with what I got out of the previous systems. Me after I got my current system, I never really knew what I was missing in my movie experience. Some people wouldn't, and don't, care about the benefits of a big system.

My sister is a perfect example. She has an Onkyo HTIB and is perfectly satisfied with it. She's watched movies at my house and says that, although it's pretty neat, the bigger experience doesn't make her feel like she's missing anything.


Back to that rule of diminishing returns. It all depends on the individual's outlook.
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post #14 of 27 Old 11-05-2011, 04:55 AM
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I use a sound bar in the living room and bed room. While I would never even think about using one in my dedicated Home Theater, they serve their purpose well in the other rooms. My set up in the home theater is not expensive by any means but I still paid about $4,000 which is also not cheap. I cant even begin to explain the difference in both sound quality and movie experience. Everything from panning effects, surround effects, bass and sound stage is better than any sound bar or HTIB could ever provide. First off, if your using a HTIB/Sound Bar, you are missing out on a lot of sound frequencies they are not capable of producing. You not only miss out on that chest thumping/mind blowing bass but you also miss out on a lot of mids. I dont know what mind of sound bar you are using but I highly doubt the sub it came with can get deeper than 30Hz or even 40Hz for that matter. You need a sub that can dig down to the low 20's in order to have most of the low end covered. I also highly doubt your sound bar can get anywhere even close to reference listening levels without starting to distort. They just dont have the amplification to acomplish this so the manufacturers dont waste money puting drivers into them that are even capable of these volume levels without high levels of distortion.

Hell. I don't get into home audio until this past year but once I've experienced movies like this, I could never go back.

I think you should take a trip to the nearest high end audio store and listen to a real 5.1/7.1 set up. Then you will know if the difference is important to you. You might be like my wife though. She could care less about low freaquency bass, surround effects and high volume levels. She is perfectly content watching a movie on one of our TV's that use a sound bar.
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post #15 of 27 Old 11-06-2011, 08:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WACO View Post

I have a Yamaha YSP-900 Soundbar with a $100 Sony Subwoofer, and I just bought my Sister a $500 Blu-Ray 5.1 System from Sam's Club, and honestly, they both sound mindblowing to me. I could not imagine being happier with my Soundbar. It puzzles me that there are systems out there that cost 10's of thousands of dollars. Can they really make that big of a difference?

I don't know about 10's of thousands of dollars being worth it - but yes, there's definitely a difference between say - a set of klipsch speakers and a HTiB.

Before I moved into my condo, I had a pair of Klipsch speakers that retail for 500 bucks each, and a 12" Klipsch subwoofer. I now have a soundbar, since I have less space, neighbors, and a baby on the way - The difference is, for me - astounding.

However, that's the difference between my 200 dollar soundbar/subwoofer and roughly 1,000 spent on speakers, subwoofer, and receiver (I didn't pay retail), I'm not convinced that the difference between my 1,000 dollar set up and a 10,000 dollar setup would be quite as pronounced... Although, when I move into a real house again in a few years, you can bet I'll be buying some real speakers to replace the sound bar!
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post #16 of 27 Old 11-06-2011, 10:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nr5667 View Post


I don't know about 10's of thousands of dollars being worth it - but yes, there's definitely a difference between say - a set of klipsch speakers and a HTiB.

Before I moved into my condo, I had a pair of Klipsch speakers that retail for 500 bucks each, and a 12" Klipsch subwoofer. I now have a soundbar, since I have less space, neighbors, and a baby on the way - The difference is, for me - astounding.

However, that's the difference between my 200 dollar soundbar/subwoofer and roughly 1,000 spent on speakers, subwoofer, and receiver (I didn't pay retail), I'm not convinced that the difference between my 1,000 dollar set up and a 10,000 dollar setup would be quite as pronounced... Although, when I move into a real house again in a few years, you can bet I'll be buying some real speakers to replace the sound bar!

I completely agree. I dont think you would ever notice a difference with say a $2000 set up and a $10000 setup when it comes to Home Theater but im quite sure a major difference will be heard when it comes to music listening.
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post #17 of 27 Old 11-09-2011, 07:52 AM
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A boss I had, years ago, used to build his own speakers from scratch. Before that, I had only listened to typical off-the-shelf audio. He played some music for me featuring high end glass tinkling along with deep bass. It was the most amazing sound I ever heard. I felt it was happening right next to me.

Most people won't notice the difference unless they think about it or experience it. It's like going to a fine dining restaurant for the first time when all you've known is McDonald's. I used to hate Chinese food till I was 28 years old when my new wife brought me to my first Chinese restaurant that knew how to cook it. Now it's one of my favorites.
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post #18 of 27 Old 11-09-2011, 08:02 AM
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For a complete system I don't think I would be satisfied if it cost less than $5000. I have friends who are perfectly satisfied with a iPod and speaker dock, while it is almost painful for me to listen to it. Its a personal and subjective thing.
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post #19 of 27 Old 11-09-2011, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theresa View Post

For a complete system I don't think I would be satisfied if it cost less than $5000. I have friends who are perfectly satisfied with a iPod and speaker dock, while it is almost painful for me to listen to it. Its a personal and subjective thing.

Theresa

Trust me that price means very little when it comes to quality, high fidelity sound. I had very close to $30k invested in 5.1 ch audio in the late 1980's, early 1990's. This included vacum tube preamp and four vacum tube power amps. Current system for music is less than 2k and will outperform almost any current equipment costing as much or more (even in inflated 2011 dollars) than the system I had years ago.

I have worked with a good number of audiophiles that did not want to believe that equal or in many (most?) cases better quality sound could be had for a fraction of what they had invested.

Actually, I could have improved sound by some measure for about your price. However, I am stuck with WAF (wife acceptance factor). Thus, the thing holding me back is not cost, but home much certain loudspeakers intrude on a decorating scheme.

I am doubly blessed however with sound that will normally leave most people with their jaws open and a wonderful wife of 33 years who has put up with my quest for audio nirvana. Which is really not available at any price.

David Freeman
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post #20 of 27 Old 11-09-2011, 09:18 PM
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@ Theresa : I totally agree

I am well known amongst friend and family as a person that enjoys high end audio. So regrettably (for me) I am one of the first person's that they call to check out there new speakers, sub, soundbar, ext.

I go to said persons house and they are excited to demo there new equipment for me, ( I try and feign excitement). Inevitably they push there speaker, system, whatever, into the pain realm, it is then they yell, "doesnt that sound awesome?". I tell them that's the beauty of sound, that's is all subjective, if it sounds great to them, then its great. All the while thinking "omfg" please turn it down, it stopped sounding anywhere near the original recording about 30db ago. Distortion, compression, are the reality when talking about cheap set ups, it isn't until you start spending some real money, (or make your own) that you can start to hear real sound.

Here is an example...

Go to a shooting range, listen to the sound of the gunshots, feel the sound..

A high end Ht set up will match that. In sound, dynamics, and level (almost).

Cheap HTIB, won't even come close..

Not to mention if you really listen to music, with a cheap set up, you hear the cd.

With a high end set up, you can close your eyes and hear the music, you can tell where the individual instruments are on stage, you can picture the stage in your mind. (imaging)

Like I said, sound is subjective, and if you do not, or cannot appreciate the difference, then for you, (to answer your original question) no they don't make a bit of difference..

I have freinds that have Bose systems and love them, personally, I would rather listen to my UE headphones, than a Bose system....

My first DIY project. A dual, dual opposed setup

www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1345494
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post #21 of 27 Old 11-10-2011, 03:45 PM
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To me, the difference between good sound ar around $2000+ (total system) and "GREAT/Staggering" sound in home theater isn't about money, it's mostly about buying the right satellite speakers to get your listening position to reference level SPL, and then the TRUE separator of ultimate sound is the subwoofer/low-frequency-SPL. Some people have homemade subs that can't be duplicated through a retail store and they are tooth-rattlingly/frighteningly powerful. People with that home theater are truly set apart and it's not necessarily about "cost", it's about "design, implementation and room acoustics".

Great sound doesn't mean spending a lot. It means listening to different brands, getting an idea of what you think sounds good, then picking the correct room to put those selected speakers in, then it's about proper setup, tuning and implementation. I spent a total of $2834 for my complete home theater from my 55" TV to my speakers and subwoofer. All very affordable. The sound quality is as good as I could ever expect in a living room of it's size (1600 cuft or so). I'm beyond pleased when I watch movies. Still, there are better systems that can be put in more ideal theater rooms. So, the room definitely plays a BIG role in the outcome of the system.

A 3,000 cuft room with a giant projection-based screen, acoustic room treatments, a raised hollow floor (to enhance the 'shake/impact' of the bass) a hand-built monster subwoofer, & carefully chosen speakers will give a STUNNING experience that you won't want to give up.

This kind of setup 'could' still be done on a remarkably tight budget and built over time. It just takes research, planning, hard work and patience. Audio/Video gear is MUCH cheaper than it ever was in the 1990's when I first got into home theater.
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post #22 of 27 Old 11-21-2011, 10:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiophile34 View Post

@ Theresa : I totally agree

I am well known amongst friend and family as a person that enjoys high end audio. So regrettably (for me) I am one of the first person's that they call to check out there new speakers, sub, soundbar, ext.

I go to said persons house and they are excited to demo there new equipment for me, ( I try and feign excitement). Inevitably they push there speaker, system, whatever, into the pain realm, it is then they yell, "doesnt that sound awesome?". I tell them that's the beauty of sound, that's is all subjective, if it sounds great to them, then its great. All the while thinking "omfg" please turn it down, it stopped sounding anywhere near the original recording about 30db ago. Distortion, compression, are the reality when talking about cheap set ups, it isn't until you start spending some real money, (or make your own) that you can start to hear real sound.

Here is an example...

Go to a shooting range, listen to the sound of the gunshots, feel the sound..

A high end Ht set up will match that. In sound, dynamics, and level (almost).

Cheap HTIB, won't even come close..

Not to mention if you really listen to music, with a cheap set up, you hear the cd.

With a high end set up, you can close your eyes and hear the music, you can tell where the individual instruments are on stage, you can picture the stage in your mind. (imaging)

Like I said, sound is subjective, and if you do not, or cannot appreciate the difference, then for you, (to answer your original question) no they don't make a bit of difference..

I have freinds that have Bose systems and love them, personally, I would rather listen to my UE headphones, than a Bose system....

Thanks, that painted a very clear picture for me. I now understand how loudness is not the issue, but how clear and true-to-the-original that sound is. I'm very happy with my set-up right now, and truth is I've already spent about $5,000 on my entire home theater setup (60" DLP, 3D, PS3, Soundbar, etc...), and that's a hell of a lot of money for me right now. But I think in the future I'll probably look into really high end systems. I like the gun range example you used, I can really imagine how you need a very good system to duplicate that exact sound, because I've been to the range before, and it's a sound/feeling that could never be duplicated by a a $300 Vizio Soundbar or something like that. It's kinda true what they say, you really don't know what you're missing until you experience it.
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post #23 of 27 Old 11-21-2011, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by the Son View Post

I know you weren't asking me, but a lot of it has to do with distortion related to volume. Lower-end speakers will likely distort sooner than higher-end. This will make the lesser speakers sound louder at a given volume level, but in reality it is the distortion making them seem louder. Case in point: I went from a JBL Venue series 7.1 system to a Klipsch RF-83 system. The JBLs were around $800 for all of them, and i was VERY pleased the entire time I had them. When I got the Klipsches ($3000 used....would have been in the ballpark of $6k new), they seemed quieter at the same dB (with a sound meter) because they were cleaner. Never mind the addition of 2 Hsu Research VTF-15H subs at $1k each. I actually went from listening to music 5% of the time to about 20% because the music sounded so much better and cleaner. I would never have guessed my JBLs were so unclean.

I couldn't revert back. I could have been just as pleased with less expensive speakers, but I am very very happy with my selection. The sound is SOOOOO phenomenal. And I was skeptical because I thought my JBLS sounded so good.

Besides, how awesome is this:



I know it's not attractive to a lot of people. I have since moved all the extra speakers to other rooms, so it's not quite so tacky:


Haha, that's ridiculous! I'm not gonna lie though, I want...
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post #24 of 27 Old 11-22-2011, 03:00 AM
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Really expensive to me is about $50,000, $5,000 is getting by inexpensively.
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post #25 of 27 Old 11-22-2011, 11:36 PM
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Does more money make a difference? Heck yeah. But you guys know what? Have you ever seen those little $30/pr Dayton speakers that are often advertised on a banner ad here at AVS? Well, I picked up a pair strictly out of curiosity and gave them to a lady friend of mine. I was so blown away by what $30 a PAIR got me in terms of sound, that if were really, really tight on money, I'd get myself three pair of those and a cheap AVR, and I could honestly find some enjoyment in it.

Now does that compare to my Magnepan 3.6 based HT with Butler amps and a McCormack MAP-1 multichannel analog pre? Nope. It's not even close. But would the Dayton system allow me to enjoy movies a WHOLE lot more than I would without it? Heck yes!

People can get into home theater on a shoe string budget these days...and that's a great thing, IMO
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post #26 of 27 Old 11-23-2011, 07:14 PM
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I must have really bad ears. To listen to 2 ch audio in a whm set up I guess you could get by cheap. But for real enjoyment, I want an old style tube amp, maybe a set of reference gallos or magnapans, and vinyl with an original master direct to disc recording with a direct drive turn table. Then throw in a good clean sub and turn the lights down. I could listen for hours. To me the room, acoustics, source material, but personal preference has everything to do with it. I compare audio to cars. Can u beat a Ferrari with a cheap car in a straight line, sure, but ferrari's were not designed for a straight line either. But if we all had everything we wanted, we couldn't stand to hear eachother brag. So we like what we have, and strive to reach a little better. We all just start in different places.
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post #27 of 27 Old 11-26-2011, 11:33 PM
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Of course you get what you pay for....to a point. Hollywood mixing studios don't use 5.1 home theater in a box for good reason: Cheap speakers lack the ability to reproduce dynamic soundtracks.

Having said that, the room your speakers are going in make a big difference in the sound, and the room also dictates how much speaker you need. You wouldn't want to use the speakers they use at the Grammys for your small HT room. They have been chosen to fill a huge concert hall and would be overkill for your small room.

Also, there is a reason people upgrade over time.....they learn about sound and find something that sounds better. It is up to the individual as to how much the want to learn and how far they want to take it. Enjoy the ride and enjoy the movie!
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