Badly in Need of an Education - Floor Standing Speakers / Center Channel - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 01-13-2013, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi All:

I have been reading and reading and frankly I am a little lost. I am a speaker newb...and can't seem to educate my way out of my confusion.

I think the easiest way to help me is to correct or add to my current understanding of Floor Standing Speakers.

1) Most floor standing speakers are 3 way -- having a woofer (low sound / bass) and tweeter (high sound / treble).

2) Woofers and tweeters can be made with a variety of different materials which all have pros and cons... I really have no idea what those pros and cons are... I know something like Kevlar tweeter is more ridged so is better for something where the sound stays steady instead of increasing then decreasing considerably... Any help here would be great.

3) There are ported and sealed Woofers... Everyone seems all over the road on this one and depending on the maker etc...

4) I am really unsure how necessary low sound is in a HT system when you have a sub-woofer except that speakers with poor bass performance often need a professional to "fine tune" cross over points between sub-woofer and speakers.

5) Due to distortion ... in GENERAL...it is better to have one good woofer and tweeter and woofer rather than using multple? Again, from what I read there are many ways to off-set distoration...so again I am a little confused here.

6) Size of tweeter and woofer do matter...but really hard to compare apples to apples among different manufacters. A 1/2 inch tweeter can sound better than a 3/4 tweeter or a 1 inch tweeter...depending on build etc.

7) Due to dynamic range "horn" tweeters are especially well suited for Home Theater purposes...


I am just really lost and have no idea how to compare speakers... I know listen, listen, listen but since I am leaning towards ID companies for the best "bang for the buck" I am trying to figure things out prior to having the speakers shipped out and me having to ship them back.

I am fairly sold on SVS sub unless HSU has a sale... but its a coin toss between them.

For the rest...I am totally lost. My budget is about 2-3k with a sub and the subs I am looking at are 600ish. Room size is small / med-small.

Any help is so much appreciated!
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post #2 of 12 Old 01-13-2013, 04:49 PM
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After reading number 1 seems you haven't been paying attention too well. 3way speakers are so named because they have 3 drivers dedicated to different frequency ranges, normally one for bass, another for midrange, another for treble (lows/mids/highs).

2. Don't worry about it unless you want to educate yourself more in great detail, more than a simple post reply is going to cover. Not a great big deal in any case, sometimes more about marketing than a real audible difference between one and another.

3. There are ported speakers and sealed speakers. A speaker can be full range, a bass module only, a subwoofer, etc.

4. You're mixing terminology. A full range speaker (of which there are relatively few until you spend some significant $$) doesn't necessarily need a sub for music, but for the LFE in movies, speakers need subs. Subs can go as low as single digit hz whereas most good full range speakers are doing well at 30 hz. It certainly does not require a professional to integrate a subwoofer into a system, but if you're talking about a single speaker and the sub driver, yes, an expert to design the crossover circuit is a good idea. A separate powered sub is fairly easy to integrate with bookshelf speakers and is a excellent way to go.

5. Low distortion is always desirable but is a huge subject and not easily addressed in terms of what you ask.

6. Wait until you know more.

7. Horn loaded speakers (can be more than just tweeters) can be more efficient, but not necessarily pleasing to the ear. Personally I don't like most of the horn loaded tweeters (you're talking Klipsch?).

Subs from Hsu and SVS are okay, also look at others like Premier Acoustics, Outlaw, Powersound Audio, Rythmik, Epik (if Chad comes back) etc.

As to regular speakers I find Ascend Acoustics to offer good bang for the buck, I have several (Sierra-1s, 170SEs, 200SEs). There are many others....

Keep learning and make a good decision but I think you need to learn more....

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post #3 of 12 Old 01-13-2013, 05:19 PM
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You are making it more complex than it needs to be. There are relatively few numbers that you will be able to really use. Some people might be reading waterfall plots and such, but you will not be able to make qualitative judgements from such data. Here's what you should worry about:

Sensitivity / Power handling: Speakers will have a rated sensitivity expressed in db @1w or @2v. They will also have a max power (RMS and Peak). These two numbers together tell you how loud a speaker can play. Double wattage = +3 db. 10x wattage = +10db. So if 1w=90db then 10w=100db and 20w=103db. Those are at 1m. Every time you double distance to your seating position, you -3db (sometimes more). So if you sit 3' away 20w=103db (for the speaker above), 6' = 100db, 12' = 97db.

The number you are most likely interested in meeting / exceeding is 80/105db at your seating position. That's "reference level". You should have no problem if you are sitting 6' or less away with anything in this price range. Conversely, using the data above, you can determine how much amp you need. If you need 200w to get the volume you want, you need a 200w+ amp.

Resistance: Measured in ohms and usually "nominal" or "minimum". If this is "4" or higher, don't worry. If it's lower, you have to start thinking about what will drive it.

Frequency Response (which should at most be +/- 3db, but smaller is better): You want to make sure that the small number is low enough to crossover to your sub. Anything below 60Hz should be fine and you shouldn't have a problem in this price range (everything should do it)

The rest I just don't think you'll be able to make use of. So listen to speakers and read their reviews.
You'll be fine with either bookshelves or towers (there's no certain advantage when crossing to a sub).

In the $2k price range my favorite speakers for stereo listening are the Salk SongTowers (better: Salk ST-RT, but that pushes you up to $2700). There are *many* strong contenders in this price category.
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post #4 of 12 Old 01-13-2013, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks all! Appreciate the responses. I was looking at the Salk SongTowers tonight ...on their website. I read allot on the ribbon vs. silk dome tweeter and the other upgrade on the tweeter which is mostly cosmetic. Although the SongTowers are at the edge of my price zone with a center...ill wouldn't mind pushing it. From what I read ...at this price range these are the speakers to get for music...but how about HT?

I am doing 95% HT...maybe even 98%...so not a ton of music.



A few more questions:

If I shell out 600 bucks for a decent sub should I even care about the lows on the floor standing speakers? Should I even buy floor standers? (I know decent is relative but 600 bucks seems to be a sweet spot for subs...)

I know there are a TON of good speakers in this price range...that is why it is so confusing... I have like 25 brands on my list. When I heard Klipsch I didn't really like them but was told to give them a second chance as they heavily touted as great value especially for HT.

/grumble...walk around dazed.
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post #5 of 12 Old 01-13-2013, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newbie01 View Post

Thanks all! Appreciate the responses. I was looking at the Salk SongTowers tonight ...on their website. I read allot on the ribbon vs. silk dome tweeter and the other upgrade on the tweeter which is mostly cosmetic. Although the SongTowers are at the edge of my price zone with a center...ill wouldn't mind pushing it. From what I read ...at this price range these are the speakers to get for music...but how about HT?

I am doing 95% HT...maybe even 98%...so not a ton of music.



A few more questions:

If I shell out 600 bucks for a decent sub should I even care about the lows on the floor standing speakers? Should I even buy floor standers? (I know decent is relative but 600 bucks seems to be a sweet spot for subs...)

I know there are a TON of good speakers in this price range...that is why it is so confusing... I have like 25 brands on my list. When I heard Klipsch I didn't really like them but was told to give them a second chance as they heavily touted as great value especially for HT.

/grumble...walk around dazed.

In a large room, towers can help to create a bigger, fuller soundstage over bookshelves because of the additional drivers.

Since this is mostly for HT usage, you might look at the Ascend Acoustics CMT-340s for an entire 5.0 setup, and then get yourself dual SVS subs biggrin.gif

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post #6 of 12 Old 01-14-2013, 05:47 AM
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I suggest that you consider the following system;

A pair of PSB Image T5 floorstanding speakers, which run $1000 per pair, plus a pair of Image B4 speakers for rear/surround use, and an Image C4 speaker for the center. These speakers are great for music, and have the dynamic range you want for HT.The whole system will run well under $2000

PSB speakers have repeatedly won praise from owners and the audio reviewers who have listened to and tested them. I had the Image T6 speakers for two years and loved them, but they are bigger than you need if a good subwoofer is going to be used. The T5 have good bass down to 50 Hz, where the subwoofer can take over, and they have a small footprint, which can be helpful.

For the subwoofer, I suggest that you get the NHT B12D. It runs $700, and is the best I have ever heard for that price. It is a sealed acoustic-suspension design, which largely eliminates a lot of undesirable performance problems that ported subwoofers have. In any case it is very clean and very distortion-free and has a VERY powerful amplifier.

I personally hate speaker stands, and good ones cost several hundred dollars; cheap stands do not have the mass or rigidity to allow main speakers to perform properly. I would always prefer a floorstanding speaker for main speakers.

It is a mistake to think that tweeters of a particular type or material are better than others. The devil is in the details; the quality and execution of the design can be excellent or poor with any type. Also, the dispersion pattern of some good-sounding tweeters is problematical, leading to localized good and bad listening areas in the room. Its a complex subject that really needs careful study to be well-understood.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Newbie01 View Post

Thanks all! Appreciate the responses. I was looking at the Salk SongTowers tonight ...on their website. I read allot on the ribbon vs. silk dome tweeter and the other upgrade on the tweeter which is mostly cosmetic. Although the SongTowers are at the edge of my price zone with a center...ill wouldn't mind pushing it. From what I read ...at this price range these are the speakers to get for music...but how about HT?

I am doing 95% HT...maybe even 98%...so not a ton of music.



A few more questions:

If I shell out 600 bucks for a decent sub should I even care about the lows on the floor standing speakers? Should I even buy floor standers? (I know decent is relative but 600 bucks seems to be a sweet spot for subs...)

I know there are a TON of good speakers in this price range...that is why it is so confusing... I have like 25 brands on my list. When I heard Klipsch I didn't really like them but was told to give them a second chance as they heavily touted as great value especially for HT.

/grumble...walk around dazed.
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post #7 of 12 Old 01-14-2013, 08:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newbie01 View Post




A few more questions:

If I shell out 600 bucks for a decent sub should I even care about the lows on the floor standing speakers? Should I even buy floor standers? (I know decent is relative but 600 bucks seems to be a sweet spot for subs...)

I know there are a TON of good speakers in this price range...that is why it is so confusing... I have like 25 brands on my list. When I heard Klipsch I didn't really like them but was told to give them a second chance as they heavily touted as great value especially for HT.

/grumble...walk around dazed.

IMO you should spend as much as possible on the sub since your main focus is a lot of HT. Maybe up the budget to around $800 to include the SVS PB-12, HSU VTF3, Power sound audio XV15 etc...

And if you didn't like Klipsch the first time then I don't think you'll like them the second time. Don't worry about what other people like.

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post #8 of 12 Old 01-14-2013, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Kini62 View Post

IMO you should spend as much as possible on the sub since your main focus is a lot of HT..
+1. However, you'll get better results from two subs than one, so spend what you can on the subs but divide that budget amongst two rather than one.
As for towers, when you have subs they offer no advantage over bookshelves. For the same money buy bookshelves of higher quality.

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post #9 of 12 Old 01-14-2013, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newbie01 View Post

From what I read ...at this price range these are the speakers to get for music...but how about HT?

Generally speaking; a good speaker is a good speaker. Most likely areas of differentiation for HT are focus on max SPL (loud gunshots) and low frequency response (big explosions). I discussed SPL in my previous post and low frequency is handled by a sub.
Quote:
If I shell out 600 bucks for a decent sub should I even care about the lows on the floor standing speakers? Should I even buy floor standers? (I know decent is relative but 600 bucks seems to be a sweet spot for subs...)

You want to make sure that the frequency response low enough to crossover to your sub. Anything below 60Hz should be fine and you shouldn't have a problem in this price range. There's no inherent advantage to towers in regards to sound. You don't need to get towers, you don't need to avoid them.
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post #10 of 12 Old 01-31-2013, 09:22 PM
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There are horn designs that don't have the "horn honk" that many find objectionable.

 

Also, since most horn speakers have compression drivers mated to the horn, they're very efficient-- in the treble. For them to be as equally efficient in the mid-bass, then need a larger woofer, or they sacrifice bass.

 

For some reason most speakers are designed to cater to people without subs, even though many (most?) people use them WITH subs, the speakers have low enough extension that they CAN be used without subwoofers. 

 

Hoffman's iron law says you can either have a small box, high efficiency, or low extension... pick two. (or maybe you can have three if you're willing to have a LOT of distortion). There's a sacrifice to be made. So, those narrow boxes that are so cute, with their 5" to 6" woofers, that perversely extend to 40Hz even though you'll use a sub...they are not efficient and many don't give a very dynamic performance. The good ones do, if you throw lots and lots of power at them(external amps required).

 

So, back to the typical horns...they have too small a woofer to be as efficient down low as they are up high. As you turn up the volume, the woofer gives up but the treble gets louder and can sound harsh. I wouldn't trust a speaker that advertises 94dB+ sensitivity but only has 5-7" woofers, and somehow extends to 35-45 Hz. 

 

Sensitivity is important to render the high dynamics in films (or use big amps with capable speakers). If you would like to crank it up to 95dB peaks or more (-10dB from reference level), then you might find it starts to sound harsh. This is because the speakers or the amp is distorting. It may not be that the volume, per se, is bad, but that you're wincing at the distortion. Sensitivity and power-handling is less important if you listen at low levels. 

 

The horn speakers that play in commercial cinemas have 10", 12", 15" etc. woofers!

 

Lastly: directivity.

If the speaker is known to measure very evenly off-axis, it might be okay to have the sound reflections off the room surfaces. But most speakers have a very different response that's echoing off the room's surfaces and back to your ears, and so this can sound bad. 

The other thing horns deliver besides high sensitivity is they direct more sound at the audience and less at the floor, walls, and ceiling. A little horn on a narrow speaker will have worse directivity than a larger horn on a wider speaker. 

 

So, for 95% home theater, you may be interested in the high quality, audiophile-quality pro speakers like a Tannoy Definition Install DC-12, QSC KW-122, Chase Home Theater SHO-10, JTR, Pi Speakers 3pi or 4pi or 6pi (can be purchased as kits), or a SEOS speaker kit.  

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post #11 of 12 Old 01-31-2013, 10:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow.. I thought I read through enough threads I heard of almost all speakers in my price range..but you added some new ones: Tannoy Definition Install DC-12, QSC KW-122, Chase Home Theater SHO-10.

As a follow up...I am a little stuck now.

I have started going to all the local shops (not too many) and they pretty much pander to Klipsch and Paradigm (Not that it is bad). I have also heard some ML, DT, B&W and PSB but have not been really impressed by them. I am on thefence with Klipsch and Paradigm. (They both are budget busters).

There are some great ID companies I would love to try out...but paying 500 bucks min to hear some thing if I dont like it hurts... Shipping is expensive on most of this stuff.

Its funny how the speaker guys all get into subs and the sub guys all get into speakers... Although HSU took a somewhat unique approach and did a value speaker vs. high end...
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post #12 of 12 Old 02-01-2013, 12:48 AM
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Here's a list of reference level-capable speakers: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0Ahbv22x1GcpqdDdpT0hrNmJVNU5kM0drU0R5bVRNWUE  and here's the thread about it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1387083/list-of-reference-level-high-sensitivity-spl-speakers/0_50. I'd make sure that the speaker you're looking at will get loud enough using its sensitivity, its program power handling, and your receiver/amp.

 

If you want the dynamic power, the chest slam of live music, the impact of a great commercial theater, then you need to find dynamic speakers. That's why people here who've bought Revel Salon speakers have moved to speakers like JTR Triple 8's, the SEOS speakers, or the Pi Speakers I mentioned. 

 

On the list, you'll see some speakers don't get near reference level (105dB peaks) unless you feed them way more power than they're rated to handle. Some will get their within their power handling, like a 300w program power speaker that need 320w might do fine, because it'll handle in most cases twice the program power for short peaks, with varying levels of distortion. Other speakers are sensitive enough they only need 100w receiver, or less. Just depends on your goals. 

 

  • You'll see many pro audio speakers. Some of them are stage speakers, and the cheap ones are probably full of problems, like plastic cabinet resonances, they're often ugly, their horns are just meant to cover the crowd, but they might also sound poor (that horn honk I mentioned earlier). They have to get loud enough and dynamic enough to play live music. I've heard good things about some of the Electrovoice, but I'm not really sure which ones work great in the home for movies and music. 
     
  • You'll also see many broadcast / mixing speakers. They have to be accurate enough for the people who are making/designing the music and sound tracks. They have to get to reference level in order for sound designers/engineers to know how it's going to sound. 
     
  • You'll see cinema speakers. These always have horns (that I've seen) and the cheap ones roll off at 12kHz, and the better ones 16kHz to 20kHz. They need to entertain a crowd of movie-goers.
     
  • You'll see some residential speakers that borrow from pro audio technology and methods: large woofers, horns, etc., but are refined enough for critical listening in the home. JTR, Geddes, Seaton, Pi, Genelec, Procella are some examples. 
     
  • You'll see active speakers, where the speaker comes with its own amplification. The amps are perfectly matched to the application, and there's a digital crossover that doesn't soak up power like a typical passive one does. Many studio monitors use this method, as does Seaton, Genelec, Pro Audio Technology, and QSC, among others. 
     
  • You'll see typical residential speakers. Some are in the low 90s, like Axiom. Some are in the high-80s, but have big power handling drivers, like Dynaudio. Others are more suitable to medium volume listening.
     

 

It's really easy to get entranced by the shiny receivers with all the buttons and lights and less distortion than the other or 30w more power. But since it takes TWICE the watts to get just a 3dB increase in volume...well, if you compare the 100w to the 130w, that's less than one dB difference. And the distortion in the receiver is orders of magnitude less than what's produced by the speakers. Consider the speakers and subs the long-term investment, whereas you might upgrade the receiver every 4-5 years for new capabilities. The speakers, and the room they're in, have the greatest impact on the sound. 

 

The speaker kits I mentioned require very minimal DIY skills. When a kit contains the wood, and you just glue it together and paint/stain it as you wish, that's pretty easy. I have such minimal skills, and I'm doing it, so I know you can, too!

I haven't heard of anyone complaining of a Pi Speakers kit. The owner, Wayne Parham, has been a major force in advancing the state of the art in speakers for decades. 

 

I hear many people like the Klipsch Reference line, but their sensitivity is over-inflated. I'd pick Klipsch that had 8" or larger woofers, or their Heritage line, or the Theater speakers. 

Hsu makes an intriguing speaker in the HB-1 and their matching center. The horn is not mated to a compression driver, so it's not as sensitive as one might think. The 6ohm nominal impedance makes it more like 90.5dB (if you want to compare to other 8ohm speakers).

 

Note: the List just underwent some big changes and I haven't yet put in in-room sensitivity and the corrections to account for where manufacturers play fast and loose with the specs. The data's in another spreadsheet I just have to copy and implement some new formulas.

 

Cheers!

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