Small 5.1 setup with high quality at low volumes ($1200 budget) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 12:15 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking for a high quality 5.1 surround sound setup. Here are the characteristics that will be important:

1. Smaller sized room: My room is 14'x14' with 12' high ceilings. Floor to ceiling windows on the left side when viewing the TV, with the right side open to the dining room and kitchen.

2. High clarity at low volumes: In terms of the content we listen to, I'd say it's 70% TV, 20% Movies, 10% Music. What's most important to us is being able to clearly understand TV dialogue at low volumes. We are in an apartment building and can't blast the system without upsetting neighbors. Every now and then during the day on the weekends we should be able to crank a movie though.

3. Smaller speakers: The first thing every single one of you will probably say is to get larger speakers. Obviously larger drivers will sound better. But, because of the layout of the room and our aesthetic preferences, that's not happening. So please don't advise me to get towers or even large bookshelves. I would say the mains should be less than about 12" tall.

4. Denon AVR-1713 Receiver: I need AirPlay so I've settled on this receiver. Max output power per channel is 80W @ 8Ohms, so speakers need to be relatively efficient.

4. $1200 budget: This is about 3x the budget of the receiver which I think makes sense.

Some of the setups I'm looking at:

Definitive Tech ProCinema 800
Ascend Acoustics (3x CBM-170 SE, 2x HTM-200) + HSU VTF-2
Boston Acoustics (4xA25, 1xA225C, 1xASW250)

Each of these setups clock in right around $1200.

I have heard the Def Tech 600 system in a gigantic room and was pretty impressed (although they struggled to fill the entire space), so I might be leaning towards those. My friend has an Ascend setup is a tiny room and it was great (though I didn't test low volume listening). I've never heard Boston speakers before.

What else should I be considering?

Thanks for any advice!
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post #2 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nxmehta View Post

I'm looking for a high quality 5.1 surround sound setup. Here are the characteristics that will be important:
1. Smaller sized room: My room is 14'x14' with 12' high ceilings. Floor to ceiling windows on the left side when viewing the TV, with the right side open to the dining room and kitchen.
2. High clarity at low volumes: In terms of the content we listen to, I'd say it's 70% TV, 20% Movies, 10% Music. What's most important to us is being able to clearly understand TV dialogue at low volumes. We are in an apartment building and can't blast the system without upsetting neighbors. Every now and then during the day on the weekends we should be able to crank a movie though.
3. Smaller speakers: The first thing every single one of you will probably say is to get larger speakers. Obviously larger drivers will sound better. But, because of the layout of the room and our aesthetic preferences, that's not happening. So please don't advise me to get towers or even large bookshelves. I would say the mains should be less than about 12" tall.
4. Denon AVR-1713 Receiver: I need AirPlay so I've settled on this receiver. Max output power per channel is 80W @ 8Ohms, so speakers need to be relatively efficient.
4. $1200 budget: This is about 3x the budget of the receiver which I think makes sense.
Some of the setups I'm looking at:
Definitive Tech ProCinema 800
Ascend Acoustics (3x CBM-170 SE, 2x HTM-200) + HSU VTF-2
Boston Acoustics (4xA25, 1xA225C, 1xASW250)
Each of these setups clock in right around $1200.
I have heard the Def Tech 600 system in a gigantic room and was pretty impressed (although they struggled to fill the entire space), so I might be leaning towards those. My friend has an Ascend setup is a tiny room and it was great (though I didn't test low volume listening). I've never heard Boston speakers before.
What else should I be considering?
Thanks for any advice!

I have a Pro Cinema 600 with brackets PM if interested.

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post #3 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 12:55 PM
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Of those, the Ascend would be my choice. That setup seems like it would do very well for you. Another 5.1 system to consider might be the HSU Hybrid 1. If you want to try a mix-n-match system you could use Emotiva speakers -- XRC 5.2 center, XRM 6.1 fronts and XRM 4.1 surrounds -- with an Epik Legend subwoofer. Not quite $1200, but pretty close.

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post #4 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 01:05 PM
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I have the HSU's and as far as low volume goes they are fantastic. I do a lot of night watching and the dialogue comes through nice and clear. the only negative I could find with them is that they are a tad on the larger side, but as with all speakers, thats a personal preference.
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post #5 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nxmehta View Post

What's most important to us is being able to clearly understand TV dialogue at low volumes. We are in an apartment building and can't blast the system without upsetting neighbors.

The receiver you are buying has Audyssey Dynamic EQ which can greatly assist with that. I wouldn't sweat speaker choices unless you find that the center channel is getting poor reviews.

And I'm with Jim. My choice would be the Ascends out of your list. And HSU makes great subs for the price.

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post #6 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 01:48 PM
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+1 for the Hsu's .. very satisfied owner. smile.gif

What a long, strange trip its been....
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post #7 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 01:50 PM
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+1 for the HSU Research also. A proud owner here!


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post #8 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Very interesting, I did not know about the HSU HB-1's. I don't know if I've heard bookshelf speakers with horn tweeters before. Can anyone comment on how the HB-1s would compare to the CBM-170 SEs? Will the horn tweeter make the HB-1s harsher because of the increased SPL capacity?
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post #9 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 03:00 PM
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well, I havn't heard the 170 se's, but I had it narrowed down to going with Ascend or Hsu. I already had a Hsu sub, and was very impressed, to say the least. I'm sure I would've been happy with either.
Great reviews for both, similar price point, lots of happy owners, etc.
Have you seen the 'I'll demo my speakers..." thread? Might be someone near you, but I think either would work.

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post #10 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 03:41 PM
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The Hsu horn loaded tweeter are not harsh at all IMHO. They will definitely play clear which was one of your goals for dialogue. I like them too for your budget, but they are slightly over 15" tall.

The Ascends are nice too, but I would probably choose the Hsu speakers over the Ascend 170's for mains.

The Hsu package deal is a nice one for your budget.
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post #11 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 08:26 PM
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For what it's worth, a comparison: http://forum.ascendacoustics.com/showpost.php?p=21880&postcount=3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

For what it's worth, a comparison: http://forum.ascendacoustics.com/showpost.php?p=21880&postcount=3

Keep in mind this was the first gen Hsu speakers and was against the Ascend 340. I would pick the 340 over the Hsu as well, but it is much more expensive and is 21" tall vs the 15" of the Hsu.
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post #13 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 08:46 PM
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I heard both the CBM-170SEs and HB-1MK2's side by side. Both excellent bang for the buck...you can not go wrong with either. Their presentations are definitely different.

As I mentioned in another thread, both companies have excellent trial policies. The best thing to do is order a pair of both, and try them out in your room...send back the pair that didn't fair as well.

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post #14 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 08:51 PM
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This is a good 2nd generation, HSU review
http://www.stereomojo.com/HSU%20HB1%20Mk2%20Speaker%20Review/HSUHB1Mk2SpeakerReview.htm

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Quote:
Originally Posted by nxmehta View Post

I have heard the Def Tech 600 system in a gigantic room and was pretty impressed (although they struggled to fill the entire space), so I might be leaning towards those. My friend has an Ascend setup is a tiny room and it was great (though I didn't test low volume listening). I've never heard Boston speakers before.
What else should I be considering?
I would choose the Definitive SM350 over the small sats - they have a 5 1/4 inch woofer,
not 4.4 inch as is stated on Newegg. You can even use a SM350 as a center channel.

They are under 12" tall
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882325059

However if needed, this center can work
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882325046

You can still get a HSU sub

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post #16 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 10:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cschang View Post

I heard both the CBM-170SEs and HB-1MK2's side by side. Both excellent bang for the buck...you can not go wrong with either. Their presentations are definitely different.
As I mentioned in another thread, both companies have excellent trial policies. The best thing to do is order a pair of both, and try them out in your room...send back the pair that didn't fair as well.

Could you comment on what you thought was different in their presentation (that you can remember)?

Ordering both might be a good idea... but the HSU might be a bit too big.

Surprised that no one likes the Def Tech ProCinema's that much (especially for a 14x14 room)!
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post #17 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 10:20 PM
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The SM350's are pretty hard to beat at their current price.


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post #18 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 10:44 PM - Thread Starter
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To complicate matters, someone suggested the SVS SBS-02-5.1 system. That is a monstrous looking subwoofer...
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post #19 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cschang View Post

I heard both the CBM-170SEs and HB-1MK2's side by side. Both excellent bang for the buck...you can not go wrong with either. Their presentations are definitely different.
As I mentioned in another thread, both companies have excellent trial policies. The best thing to do is order a pair of both, and try them out in your room...send back the pair that didn't fair as well.

Or, just order and test the centers, right? Since dialogue for watching TV at low volume the primary concern, the one with the better center for low volumes should give the OP what he wants, right?

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post #20 of 25 Old 09-03-2012, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ack_bk View Post

Keep in mind this was the first gen Hsu speakers and was against the Ascend 340. I would pick the 340 over the Hsu as well, but it is much more expensive and is 21" tall vs the 15" of the Hsu.

So first generation HSU against the non SE, huh? That would make a difference.

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post #21 of 25 Old 09-04-2012, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Or, just order and test the centers, right? Since dialogue for watching TV at low volume the primary concern, the one with the better center for low volumes should give the OP what he wants, right?
That is one train of thought...but it has been my experience, that when someone that thinks they watch more TV/movies than listening to music, and they get a good set of speakers, they start to appreciate listening to music a lot more.

IMO...the intelligibility of dialogue at lower levels is not going to be an issue for either setup, and won't be a driving factor if deciding between the two.

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post #22 of 25 Old 09-04-2012, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by cschang View Post

That is one train of thought...but it has been my experience, that when someone that thinks they watch more TV/movies than listening to music, and they get a good set of speakers, they start to appreciate listening to music a lot more.
IMO...the intelligibility of dialogue at lower levels is not going to be an issue for either setup, and won't be a driving factor if deciding between the two.

No doubt. I would normally agree, but sometimes people need the comfort of satisfying their primary concern. It's even highlighted in bold in the original post. Demoing the center channels would provide more confidence that the best choice was being made.

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post #23 of 25 Old 09-04-2012, 05:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

No doubt. I would normally agree, but sometimes people need the comfort of satisfying their primary concern. It's even highlighted in bold in the original post. Demoing the center channels would provide more confidence that the best choice was being made.
I can't argue with that.

In this instance, and since I have heard them both, that main concern is easily satisfied by both center channels, IMO. If he is not confidant with anyone's opinion, on any matter, he certainly needs to listen for his own confidence.

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post #24 of 25 Old 09-04-2012, 06:41 PM
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I am currently running the NHT SuperZero 2.0 all around and I've been really happy with them, pair these with a decent sub like an SVS SB12-NSD and you will be set!
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post #25 of 25 Old 09-07-2012, 12:27 PM
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In that size room a bic pl200 would pack a mighty punch.. if you can find them try energy speakers rc 10, rc-lcr. they both meet you under 12" require
ment. and sound great
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