After a few years of dealing with other priorities, I'm starting to take baby steps toward setting up a surround system in my loft. The condo is a great fit for me in many ways, but it's an awkward fit at best for audio gear -- and my tastes in the past have tended toward things that really need more space than I can give them. So this time, I am intending to work backwards from the room, identify speakers that will work well in this challenging space, and start auditioning from there. I'd really appreciate the voice of some experience as I begin to figure this out.The room
I've thrown together a diagram of the room (below), with major pieces of furniture and some potential speaker positions identified. The main living space is essentially a large angled "L" with the TV at the end of the short leg. To the left of the image is the rest of the kitchen and the entry hall. The wall behind the armchair is a ~4' knee wall with glass above, which lets light into the room behind; there's a niche beneath one end where my components will probably go.
floor are concrete; ceiling height is about 11' in the listening area. Front and back walls are about 24' apart. This is a room with a lot of hard surfaces; I'm sure I'll need some room correction.
The two biggest challenges I see are:
- Lack of separation on the front L/R speakers. I have them positioned about as far apart as possible in the drawing. In these positions, I will probably have to move them occasionally for access to things.
- Very limited position options for side surrounds. I have been thinking this over for years, and the positions where I have drawn the speakers are really the only places where they can go. They are about 120°, which is slightly further back than is ideal. Moreover, there is limited space in these locations; the surrounds need to be small, probably monopole speakers. (Something the size of an NHT Super Zero would be ideal.)
I have owned a handful of speakers over the years, and listened to quite a few more. My placeholder system is an older Onkyo receiver driving a pair of Vandersteen 1Bs I stumbled into on Craigslist many years ago for a song. I generally like the color of them, but they lack definition. I also ran a pair of small Tannoy bookshelves as a music system for several years.
My only previous attempt at surround was an Energy Take 5.1 system (I think it's what they're selling now as the Take Classic); I bought it for a previous, even more difficult apartment, and was never satisfied with it. It is now doing a good job in my parents' den.
I've always lusted after planars (Magnepans and a few Martin-Logans) but I've never had the room for them, and certainly don't now. I've also been fond of bigger and newer Vandersteens when I've heard them. Oddly, I've heard a few older Klipsch systems I liked. I remember thinking nice things about Linn Tukans, and some Vienna Acoustics systems.Current thoughts
- Because of the difficult positioning at the front of the room, I am mainly looking into fairly small speakers with sealed or front-ported designs, and at systems that have inconspicuous surrounds. My current Vandersteens are really too clunky -- though I would not rule out smaller towers.
- I expect to get a receiver with the best room correction I can; that's actually likely to be my first purchase.
- I will probably use the system 75% for home theater, and 25% for music. However, my ear is much more particular about music, and vocals specifically. So I am looking to spend more of my budget on the front channels.
- I do not need reference volume levels or earth-shaking bass. I want my neighbors to like me.
- I've drawn a 7.1 system, but I'm not married to that configuration.
- I don't have a strict budget in mind, though $400-500 each is probably the target for the L/C/R. I would be thrilled to spend less.
I thank everyone in advance for their help and patience