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post #1 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Upgrading in stages, kindly seeking advice

Hello, audio experts!

A bit about my situation: My wife and I are currently doing some improvements around the house. We've done some repainting, replacing of a few fixtures and a couple of pieces of furniture, and are even re-doing a few closets (to include moving network equipment out of the master closet and into my office closet - electrician comes next week to run a new circuit!). As part of the process I dismantled the living room home theater system and reconnected everything once the paint dried... that got me to thinking: I've been very disappointed with the home theater sound for quite some time. This is as good of a time as any to upgrade.

The room is an open-floorplan living room that goes right into the kitchen behind the primary seating. It is not a dedicated home theater, so my options are somewhat limited both acoustically and spatially. To give you an idea of what I can work with, this HTD Level Three is about as large as the wife will allow:

http://www.htd.com/Products/level-th...Tower-Speakers

I'm not dead set on that speaker, but happy wife = happy life... 12" wide, 45" tall, and 20" deep are the approved maximum dimensions. The center really needs to be wall mounted, but I'm building a custom console to go under the TV, so I could make it fit a center channel pretty easily if necessary. The rears won't be part of this upgrade (currently some 8-ish year old Klipsch surrounds) but ultimately will get matched to the fronts. At some point I'd love to go 7.1 with some in-walls that match, but right now the room is only wired for 5.1 (rears are mounted to the ceiling on posts and are relatively unobtrusive). For a room that isn't dedicated to home theater, I think 5.1 will be fine for the time being. Right now they will be driven by a low-end Denon from about 3 years ago... that will be replaced once I settle on speakers. So, no need to worry about matching speakers to amp - I'll go the other way around. That said, I will probably want to keep that budget under $500 so it may be worth considering.

So, I'm asking for some advice. Given the 12"W x 45"H x 20"D maximum dimensions for L/R, and a maximum budget of about $1200 for L/R/C, are there options available that I should be considering besides HTD? I'm open to smaller speakers, but since she's finally letting me go back to floors I'd really like to get that level of sound. I'm not an audiophile by any means, but I definitely appreciate the sound quality you guys do (even if I don't know the terminology). It's like drinking wine - I'm no expert but I very much enjoy a good bottle recommended by those who do know what they're doing

thanks in advance!

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post #2 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 10:18 AM
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Take a look at the GoldenEar Triton 7 and NHT Absolute Tower, both excellent sounding compact towers. Might be worth looking at the EMP E55Ti, on the top end of your size requirements, but fantastic sound and finish, and high value.
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post #3 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 10:57 AM - Thread Starter
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I think the EMP Tek looks great... I see that you run those yourself. Have you heard the HTDs to compare? I think the reason I keep leaning towards those is that they have ribbon tweeters and very solid reviews. It's all about the sound, though. If the E55ti sounds as good or better in a room like mine then I'm definitely open to them. The GoldenEar seems to be a bit out of my price range ($1400 for LR alone) and the NHT is pushing it a bit. I'd be in the used market for things like that. Perhaps you want to sell your LCR setup to me and upgrade...
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post #4 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djjoshuad View Post
I think the EMP Tek looks great... I see that you run those yourself. Have you heard the HTDs to compare? I think the reason I keep leaning towards those is that they have ribbon tweeters and very solid reviews. It's all about the sound, though. If the E55ti sounds as good or better in a room like mine then I'm definitely open to them. The GoldenEar seems to be a bit out of my price range ($1400 for LR alone) and the NHT is pushing it a bit. I'd be in the used market for things like that. Perhaps you want to sell your LCR setup to me and upgrade...
There was a shootout on here a little while back that featured both the EMP and HTD towers, lots of good information. I haven't heard HTD but they seem close in sound quality to EMP. I am very happy with mine, they have a nice neutral sound and excellent mid-range. Bass extension isn't great, but solid down to 50Hz. One of the best qualities of the speaker is it's ability to disappear in the room and provide great imaging. Sure I am a homer but they are consistently praised.

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post #5 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 11:30 AM
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The HTD is nice - and the ribbon tweeter is a nice one.

One thing to remember, is that all reviews are subjective

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post #6 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 11:45 AM
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Another option for you - Focal 717 towers and 701 center. Real good prices
http://www.accessories4less.com/make...results/1.html

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post #7 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 01:09 PM
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djjoshuad: 5.1? I find it curious that you didn't mention the "point one" of the equation, the subwoofer you have … or don't have. Nothing I know of will transform a 5.1 theater system (even if it's in the living room) like a good subwoofer can. A sub will also allow you to look at bookshelf-size speakers and not worry if a full-range tower can do the complete job. There are not any towers in your price range (or pretty much any … period) that won't benefit greatly from a good subwoofer.
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post #8 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 01:14 PM
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At Frys you can get the L/C/R RF-62 II, and RC 52 II for $1100 +tax


This is exactly what I have. I love it.
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post #9 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 08:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.

As for the sub, I was intending to keep using one of the two options I currently had in the house, neither of which really qualifies as "good" but both are decent. However, I stopped in Best Buy for some other stuff today and got a deal that seemed too good to pass up... I (of course) have 30 days to figure out if they are right for me, so I'm still looking at other things during that time. That deal was two Energy CF-50 towers and one Energy ESW-C10 sub for $900 (all new). I was going to get the Energy CC-10 center to match, but it just didn't sound right to me when auditioning them. Instead I got an open-box Klipsch KC-25 for an additional $100 that sounded perfect with the CF-50's in the store. In my living room... it sounds good but not as perfect. All told, that was over a 30% ($400) discount on the towers and sub, and a 50% discount on the open box center.

These two towers, driven from a Yamaha 840, sounded better to my ear than even the Def Tech, MartinLogan and B&W stuff they had in the same room. All of those other options sounded great, with the B&W being my second favorite. Something about the Energys was just a bit more pleasant when playing music. That said, the B&W center was miles ahead of the others I listened to. For the price, the Energy deal was just too sweet.

So, now I have a benchmark by which to measure other contenders. I will take a couple of CDs and my T2 blu-ray with me other places to audition more things... but do you guys think I will find a way to beat the deal I got? $1000 before tax for LCR and sub, bearing in mind that the center isn't quite a perfect match (it's still pretty darn close and it *does* match my current Klipsch rears). I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

edit: I forgot to add... after tweaking my low-end Denon to the best of my ability, the Energy/Klipsch combo sounds pretty freakin awesome in my living room. It's not a good room acoustically (open floorplan, laminate flooring, high ceilings) but once I had it set how I like it... wow. I can only imagine what a better receiver will bring when I upgrade that piece!

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post #10 of 57 Old 07-24-2014, 11:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
Take a look at the GoldenEar Triton 7 and NHT Absolute Tower, both excellent sounding compact towers. Might be worth looking at the EMP E55Ti, on the top end of your size requirements, but fantastic sound and finish, and high value.
A recent buyer of the Triton 7s said he got the pair for $1140, if memory serves. Get the center later.
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post #11 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 04:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djjoshuad View Post
Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.

As for the sub, I was intending to keep using one of the two options I currently had in the house, neither of which really qualifies as "good" but both are decent. However, I stopped in Best Buy for some other stuff today and got a deal that seemed too good to pass up... I (of course) have 30 days to figure out if they are right for me, so I'm still looking at other things during that time. That deal was two Energy CF-50 towers and one Energy ESW-C10 sub for $900 (all new). I was going to get the Energy CC-10 center to match, but it just didn't sound right to me when auditioning them. Instead I got an open-box Klipsch KC-25 for an additional $100 that sounded perfect with the CF-50's in the store. In my living room... it sounds good but not as perfect. All told, that was over a 30% ($400) discount on the towers and sub, and a 50% discount on the open box center.

These two towers, driven from a Yamaha 840, sounded better to my ear than even the Def Tech, MartinLogan and B&W stuff they had in the same room. All of those other options sounded great, with the B&W being my second favorite. Something about the Energys was just a bit more pleasant when playing music. That said, the B&W center was miles ahead of the others I listened to. For the price, the Energy deal was just too sweet.

So, now I have a benchmark by which to measure other contenders. I will take a couple of CDs and my T2 blu-ray with me other places to audition more things... but do you guys think I will find a way to beat the deal I got? $1000 before tax for LCR and sub, bearing in mind that the center isn't quite a perfect match (it's still pretty darn close and it *does* match my current Klipsch rears). I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

edit: I forgot to add... after tweaking my low-end Denon to the best of my ability, the Energy/Klipsch combo sounds pretty freakin awesome in my living room. It's not a good room acoustically (open floorplan, laminate flooring, high ceilings) but once I had it set how I like it... wow. I can only imagine what a better receiver will bring when I upgrade that piece!
A couple things:

1) I would take the Energy sub back, you can get a much better performer from an Internet Direct Company like SVS/Outlaw/HSU. There is very little value in buying subs at Best Buy.

2) Matching a Klipsch center and Energy fronts is not a good idea. Your imaging is going to suffer and the two brands have a substantially different sound character, The Energy center is the right center to get, the Klipsch probably sounded better in the store because it got louder. This would be the most important change to make.

3) I would seriously consider trying a pair of EMPs, they have a similar neutral sound to the Energys, but in my opinion are a much better option than the CF line.

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post #12 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 04:36 AM
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A recent buyer of the Triton 7s said he got the pair for $1140, if memory serves. Get the center later.
That's a great deal for those, they really do sound wonderful.

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post #13 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
A couple things:

1) I would take the Energy sub back, you can get a much better performer from an Internet Direct Company like SVS/Outlaw/HSU. There is very little value in buying subs at Best Buy.

2) Matching a Klipsch center and Energy fronts is not a good idea. Your imaging is going to suffer and the two brands have a substantially different sound character, The Energy center is the right center to get, the Klipsch probably sounded better in the store because it got louder. This would be the most important change to make.

3) I would seriously consider trying a pair of EMPs, they have a similar neutral sound to the Energys, but in my opinion are a much better option than the CF line.
Ditto to all of the above.
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post #14 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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A couple things:
This is all very interesting. I'm not arguing with you by any means, but here are some responses to each:

Quote:
1) I would take the Energy sub back, you can get a much better performer from an Internet Direct Company like SVS/Outlaw/HSU. There is very little value in buying subs at Best Buy.
Well, the Energy one does sound decent. Better than the Polk 8" HTIB version it is replacing but not necessarily better than the 10 year old Sony 10" I have in my office. Short of asking you directly what to look for in a sub (I can read thousands of other threads about that) - is there one particular Internet Direct company you like most? HTD is high on my list, mainly because they are 20 minutes from home and I can audition/buy/return/etc quickly and painlessly. I definitely don't want to foot the bill for shipping multiple subs all over the company until I find one I like.

Quote:
2) Matching a Klipsch center and Energy fronts is not a good idea. Your imaging is going to suffer and the two brands have a substantially different sound character, The Energy center is the right center to get, the Klipsch probably sounded better in the store because it got louder. This would be the most important change to make.
The reason I didn't like the Energy one is because the sounds coming from it seemed a lot more artificial than the ones coming from the towers. Test tones sounded great, but when watching movie content I kept feeling like the actors must have been using cheap microphones and that their voices were on a different track, poorly mixed into the rest of the audio. The B&W setup did not suffer that issue on the same scenes, and the Klipsch/Energy combo was the closest config they had in the store to matching that B&W seamless transition between channels. All of that said... HTD's center is looking pretty tempting. $200 retail for what looks like a solid setup. But... I honestly don't have enough knowledge to make that determination based on websites. I need to hear them to know if I like them.

Quote:
3) I would seriously consider trying a pair of EMPs, they have a similar neutral sound to the Energys, but in my opinion are a much better option than the CF line.
That is very likely true, but I simply don't have a way to audition EMPs locally without a lot of hassle shipping stuff around. If I do find a way to make that happen, I will rush to hear them immediately
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post #15 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 10:35 AM
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Since you are 20 minutes away - go visit HTD

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post #16 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Since you are 20 minutes away - go visit HTD
I fully intend to. Just trying to find the time... I actually was heading that way yesterday when I got sidetracked at Best Buy. By the time I finished there, HTD was about to close. I'll get there soon, though.
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post #17 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by djjoshuad View Post
This is all very interesting. I'm not arguing with you by any means, but here are some responses to each:

Well, the Energy one does sound decent. Better than the Polk 8" HTIB version it is replacing but not necessarily better than the 10 year old Sony 10" I have in my office. Short of asking you directly what to look for in a sub (I can read thousands of other threads about that) - is there one particular Internet Direct company you like most? HTD is high on my list, mainly because they are 20 minutes from home and I can audition/buy/return/etc quickly and painlessly. I definitely don't want to foot the bill for shipping multiple subs all over the company until I find one I like.

The reason I didn't like the Energy one is because the sounds coming from it seemed a lot more artificial than the ones coming from the towers. Test tones sounded great, but when watching movie content I kept feeling like the actors must have been using cheap microphones and that their voices were on a different track, poorly mixed into the rest of the audio. The B&W setup did not suffer that issue on the same scenes, and the Klipsch/Energy combo was the closest config they had in the store to matching that B&W seamless transition between channels. All of that said... HTD's center is looking pretty tempting. $200 retail for what looks like a solid setup. But... I honestly don't have enough knowledge to make that determination based on websites. I need to hear them to know if I like them.

That is very likely true, but I simply don't have a way to audition EMPs locally without a lot of hassle shipping stuff around. If I do find a way to make that happen, I will rush to hear them immediately
Look at the SVS PB-1000, Outlaw LFM-1 Plus, and HSU VTF2-MK4. These are all excellent choices and would be a big step up over the Energy sub. SVS has free shipping both ways and a 45 free trial, so you have zero risk to at least give it a shot.

Some centers are better than others, it may be that one is just not so great, or it could be a setup issue at Best Buy, or a placement issue (most likely this). With a 14 day return window, you may as well try it and see how it sounds in your home. The Best Buy stores are not the best places to try speakers. And if you happen to like the Klipsch sound more, consider going with Klipsch bookshelves instead of the Energy. With a sub you don't need towers, so you can get a nicer speaker for your money. These two brands sound drastically different so I would decide which you prefer.

EMP has a 30 day trial, so you could give them a shot and if not send them back. You do pay return shipping on them, but if you spending a good bit of money it's nice to be sure. HTD is a great option with similar sound quality, so being close it's nice to hear them in person. I would recommend stepping up to the Level Three, the bookshelves and center will run you $500.

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post #18 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 12:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I called HTD and their projected mid-July shipment of their new level Three stuff in Black has been pushed back to the end of July. I'm going to go by there and check out what they have... maybe bring home a center in Cherry to audition while I wait for the rest of it to come in.

the more I look at subs, the more I agree that the Energy one isn't right for me. That said, I'm having a hard time finding one under $400 that looks good enough to replace it. The $439 one HTD offers seems great, but I'm not 100% sure if I will be able to hear it in their showroom yet or not, since it's on pre-order. I'm also not sure if they will haggle on the price... If they can give me two level three towers, center, and sub for under $1200 (that's $1439 retail) then I will seriously consider them. If not, I will keep looking for a solution. My budget on this isn't all that flexible... lots of home improvement stuff going on right now at the house that all demands funding
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post #19 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 12:11 PM
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I called HTD and their projected mid-July shipment of their new level Three stuff in Black has been pushed back to the end of July. I'm going to go by there and check out what they have... maybe bring home a center in Cherry to audition while I wait for the rest of it to come in.

the more I look at subs, the more I agree that the Energy one isn't right for me. That said, I'm having a hard time finding one under $400 that looks good enough to replace it. The $439 one HTD offers seems great, but I'm not 100% sure if I will be able to hear it in their showroom yet or not, since it's on pre-order. I'm also not sure if they will haggle on the price... If they can give me two level three towers, center, and sub for under $1200 (that's $1439 retail) then I will seriously consider them. If not, I will keep looking for a solution. My budget on this isn't all that flexible... lots of home improvement stuff going on right now at the house that all demands funding
I would recommend skipping the towers and go with the bookshelves instead. Since you will be adding a sub, and have a crossover set, you don't gain anything by having towers. Bookshelves and towers are both equally capable down to the crossover point, which is usually 80Hz. With the savings go get an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus, it is on sale for $499 shipped and nothing else will touch it at that price.

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post #20 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I would recommend skipping the towers and go with the bookshelves instead. Since you will be adding a sub, and have a crossover set, you don't gain anything by having towers. Bookshelves and towers are both equally capable down to the crossover point, which is usually 80Hz. With the savings go get an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus, it is on sale for $499 shipped and nothing else will touch it at that price.
I will admit that you just blew my mind a little bit. I had never considered that a bookshelf would be able to compete with a tower... This changes everything. It makes sense, but I had simply never thought to question that assumption. Off to research.
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post #21 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
I would recommend skipping the towers and go with the bookshelves instead. Since you will be adding a sub, and have a crossover set, you don't gain anything by having towers. Bookshelves and towers are both equally capable down to the crossover point, which is usually 80Hz. With the savings go get an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus, it is on sale for $499 shipped and nothing else will touch it at that price.
I agree. Go ahead and get the Outlaw Plus. It is THE best deal right now a subwoofer, and well worth every penny.

Here is a good compromise on towers. The Ascend Acoustics CMT-340 SE. It's designed go with a sub.

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Last edited by cel4145; 07-26-2014 at 07:07 AM.
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post #22 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 09:39 PM - Thread Starter
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that outlaw does seem pretty great. I might lean towards the EX, but it is $100 more than the plus... we'll see.

those ascends look pretty cool too. it seems like they are laid out like a center channel speaker, so maybe 3 of them would make for good LCR?
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post #23 of 57 Old 07-25-2014, 11:32 PM
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They have a CMT-340 se center that is the same drivers and tweeter designed for horizontal placement.
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post #24 of 57 Old 07-26-2014, 12:21 AM
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I'm gonna throw in a suggestion for SVS subs. I have a PB 12+ and very very satisfied. I second the notion that the ID companies are the way to go. SVS, HSU, Rhythmik. Trust me when I tell you its money well spent. Any of the above will do just fine. You really shouldn't be hearing sounds coming from the sub. If its tuned and located properly, it should blend with your system.
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post #25 of 57 Old 07-26-2014, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post
They have a CMT-340 se center that is the same drivers and tweeter designed for horizontal placement.
ahh... the link above didn't work so I think I landed on the CMT-340 SE when I went searching. sold in pairs though, so I assumed they were meant for L/R. Need to find a way to hear these.

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I'm gonna throw in a suggestion for SVS subs. I have a PB 12+ and very very satisfied. I second the notion that the ID companies are the way to go. SVS, HSU, Rhythmik. Trust me when I tell you its money well spent. Any of the above will do just fine. You really shouldn't be hearing sounds coming from the sub. If its tuned and located properly, it should blend with your system.
the PB 12+ does indeed look awesome, but I'd blow my whole budget (and them some) on that one sub . The outlaw mentioned in this thread seems fairly comparable, specs-wise. I still don't know enough about subs to spot what makes one $500 and one $1400. Still learning!
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post #26 of 57 Old 07-26-2014, 07:13 AM
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ahh... the link above didn't work so I think I landed on the CMT-340 SE when I went searching. sold in pairs though, so I assumed they were meant for L/R. Need to find a way to hear these.
Sorry. I fixed the link above. Here's the one for the center: http://ascendacoustics.com/pages/pro...c/cmt340c.html

I forget what the difference is, but it's the same tweeter and drivers. And that's nice. Optimal SQ is to have three of the exact same speaker for your front sound stage. Manufacturer created center channels which have a different driver setup are a compromise from having the exact same three speakers.
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post #27 of 57 Old 07-29-2014, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
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After going back and forth on this issue, I think I may be mostly sticking with what is already set up in my living room. I got them relatively cheap - the two Energy CF-50 towers were $299 each, the Energy ESW-C10 was $299, and the klipsch icon center was a floor model at $100. I think I'm going to return the center and get the matching center - Energy CC-10. I'm hoping I can get a great deal on it, too... going to try to see the same salesman and see what he can do. It also helps that I got this stuff at 0% interest and while I do intend to pay it off in less than a couple of months, it certainly is nice to keep cash freed up for the other home improvements we're currently doing. When all of that is done I will look at upgrading the receiver and perhaps even get some timber-matching rears.

I get that these aren't the top-of-the line, perhaps not even the best available in their price range. That said, I really like the sound they put out in my living room. More importantly, my wife likes the sound and also really likes the way they look... she even likes the silver woofers - she wants to keep the grilles off!

The sub is not perfect, but for just under 300 bones, I'm not sure I can do much better. I have been ogling the Outlaw LFM-1 EX, and it does indeed look awesome. It goes lower and louder but it's twice the money. I'm not convinced it's twice the sub. I'm going to do the sub crawl and experiment with adding my old HTIB sub into the mix and see if I can fill the bass in a little bit... it's honestly pretty decent as-is. Yes, I would like it to go a bit lower. The more stuff I throw at it though, the more I'm impressed with the performance of this sub that doesn't have the greatest specs. It's definitely not a ferrari, more like a hopped-up mustang, but that might just be what my budget and room can handle

Anyway, I just wanted to thank those that responded - the info you guys provided has not only increased my knowledge in this arena, but it has pushed me to find even more info out there on the interwebs. I still don't know 1% of what many people here do, but I'm now a lot more comfortable tweaking, testing out the setup and deciding if it's right for me. for now, I think these will do nicely... it might be hard to believe, but I really do like the way they sound. They sound perhaps even better in my room (now that they're more broken in) than they did in the Magnolia demo room. Thanks again!
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post #28 of 57 Old 07-30-2014, 12:35 AM
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I would encourage you to go for the Outlaw. That sale ends on the 31st, and its back up to $750 shipped. Yes, it is at the very least twice the sub that the Energy sub is. Trust me, you don't know until you have compared them.
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post #29 of 57 Old 07-30-2014, 04:36 AM
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Definitely twice the sub, you are talking about maybe 40Hz extension compared to true 16Hz extension. The Outlaw will play louder, hit deeper, and be more accurate. I wouldn't pay more than $125 for that Energy sub, sub woofers at Best Buy are grossly overpriced and offer very little value. The LFM-1 Plus is still a huge upgrade and at $499 isn't quite as big a jump in price.

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post #30 of 57 Old 07-30-2014, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
Definitely twice the sub, you are talking about maybe 40Hz extension compared to true 16Hz extension. The Outlaw will play louder, hit deeper, and be more accurate. I wouldn't pay more than $125 for that Energy sub, sub woofers at Best Buy are grossly overpriced and offer very little value. The LFM-1 Plus is still a huge upgrade and at $499 isn't quite as big a jump in price.
Agreed. I have the Mirage Prestige 10, the same sub as the Energy VSW10 that MSRPs at $1099, and it's only a good deal if less than $300. And even then, it has pretty steep rolloff below 30hz. NXG NX-BAS-500 and BIC PL-200 are both proven performers in the <$300 bracket. The Energy is rated 32Hz-140Hz+/- 3dB, which means it won't have any output below 30hz, so basically not adding a lot to the low end performance of the CF-50s, which are rated 39Hz - 20kHz ± 3dB.

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