7.2 Surround System on a 5-6k Budget - AVS Forum
Speakers > 7.2 Surround System on a 5-6k Budget
jedimario 09:40 AM 07-26-2014
Hello everyone,

I am in the process of finishing a home theater room and I want to add in a 7.2 speaker system for about $5-6k (+about 1.2K for a receiver). For the stats of the room:
Room Size (front x side x height): 16.5 ft by 15.5 feet by ~8 feet so about 2050 cubic feet
Room Use: Watching movies and playing video games

The only consideration that comes to mind is that the left hand wall (facing the tv) is open to a smaller entry area. However, I planned to use surround speakers on stands to account for that.

My previous experience had been with an Energy Take 5.1 system and a Denon receiver (in a different room), so I am not really sure what speakers to look at in this budget range for a 7.2 setup.

So far, friends have suggested I look at:
Definitive Technology's
  • 2x Front: Mythos STS SuperTower
  • 1x Center: Mythos Nine
  • 4x Surround: Mythos Gem
  • 2x Sub: Unknown?? (what would work with this setup? a ProSub 800?)

Klipsch's
  • 2x Floor-standing: Reference RF-82 II
  • 1x Center Channel: Reference RC-62 II
  • 2x Subwoofer: Reference RW-12II
  • 4x Surrounds: Reference RS-42 II

w/ a Denon AVR-X3000

I would really appreciate anyone's recommendations on these brands or other brands that would be worth listening to in this price range.

Thanks in advance!

shadyJ's Avatar shadyJ 11:20 AM 07-26-2014
A few pieces of advice: Firstly, if you are getting subs, and especially dual subs, forget about getting full range tower speakers. The only advantage tower speakers have over the equivalent bookshelf speakers is bass extension, but since the subwoofers is going to be taking over that bass range, a tower speaker offers zero advantage over bookshelf speakers. Knock the front left and right down to bookshelf speakers, take the price difference and put it in the subwoofers, where it will make a much greater difference for the better.

Second, The subs from Klipsch and Deftech are not very good for the money. Skip them. Get a sub from a dedicated sub maker. Rythmik, Hsu, SVS, Reaction. Dollar for dollar, a sub from any one of those companies will knock the pants off of any sub from Deftech or Klipsch.

Third, do not use bipole or dipole speakers as surrounds in a 7 channel system. In a seven channel system, the surround sound stage is meant to be more discreet and localizable. Bipoles and dipoles like in the systems you are considering make a unsalvagable mess out of the surround sound stage and defeat the point of expanding out to 7 channels. Use monopoles instead, ie regular bookshelf type speakers which radiate sound in one direction. They will perform better, sound better, and cost less.

Fourth, instead of a Denon AVR-x3000, get an X4000. It has better room correction calibration, Audyssey XT32, and it can calibrate dual subs independently, which will be a big plus for your setup. It will be significantly better without costing a whole lot more.

If I were to get a Klipsch setup in a five to six grand budget, I would go with: RB81 fronts, RC62 center, RB51 surrounds. For the subs, I would go for a pair Reaction PV15x or Hsu VTF15h. Another system which would be brutal is: Ascend CMT340s for front left/right and center, CBM170s for surrounds, and dual Rythmik FV15HP for subs, which would be an absolutely monstrous sound and would blow all your guests away.
To mount the surrounds, use some Videosecu side-clamping mounts. Get your speaker and HDMI cable from blue-jeans cables. Those systems would be roughly the same price as the others, but it will dramatically outperform them.
RayGuy's Avatar RayGuy 03:22 PM 07-26-2014
A buddy of mine has the STSs with the Gem rears and he is very happy (not sure which center he had) . IMO, those are really good speakers. He is running it in a relatively small room with no sub, so he needed the inboard powered subs. If you are getting sub(s), the powered subs of the STS are probably not a necessity in your case. That said, given the budget, you will have a lot of choices, so don't jump on the first thing you hear. Get out there and listen to lots of speakers. I'm sure you will find something you like (and fits your situation) better than the ones you mentioned. Let your ears decide, not online reviews ....

The prior poster had some good recommendations, I would add Totem, Golden Ear, and PSB speakers to your listening checklist.
mtn-tech's Avatar mtn-tech 01:15 AM 07-28-2014
I love my Paradigm Studio setup, but with subs it is outside of your budget - even with the Studio 20 bookshelf speakers. The Monitor series also has great performance for the money and is worth listening to - their center speakers are particularly good - this is what I would suggest at a total around $4500 - these are list prices, a Paradigm dealer should discount 10% - 20%:

Fronts: Paradigm Monitor 9 - $1198/pr
Center: Paradigm Center 3 - $599
Surround: Paradigm Mini Monitor - $598/pr
Back: Paradigm Mini Monitor - $598/pr
Subs: SVS Dual PB-2000 - 500 Watt DSP Controlled, 12" Ported Subwoofer - $1499/pr

That's going to be an amazing pair of subs. I had a very modest 12" sub and when I upgraded to my pair of SVS subs, the first time I turned them on it scared me there was so much bass! (and I have the sealed box ones so they aren't as loud and don't go as low).

This is the best center speaker in the Monitor line and I've heard it - I thought it had amazing clarity and dynamic range. And the Mini Monitors are great speakers - in my opinion one of the best bookshelfs out there. The one upgrade that you could make would be the Monitor 11's for $400 more, but with bass management and those subs you won't need the extra bass unless you are planning to listen to music with no subs (and why would you?)
Transmaniacon's Avatar Transmaniacon 05:48 AM 07-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadyJ View Post
A few pieces of advice: Firstly, if you are getting subs, and especially dual subs, forget about getting full range tower speakers. The only advantage tower speakers have over the equivalent bookshelf speakers is bass extension, but since the subwoofers is going to be taking over that bass range, a tower speaker offers zero advantage over bookshelf speakers. Knock the front left and right down to bookshelf speakers, take the price difference and put it in the subwoofers, where it will make a much greater difference for the better.

Second, The subs from Klipsch and Deftech are not very good for the money. Skip them. Get a sub from a dedicated sub maker. Rythmik, Hsu, SVS, Reaction. Dollar for dollar, a sub from any one of those companies will knock the pants off of any sub from Deftech or Klipsch.

Third, do not use bipole or dipole speakers as surrounds in a 7 channel system. In a seven channel system, the surround sound stage is meant to be more discreet and localizable. Bipoles and dipoles like in the systems you are considering make a unsalvagable mess out of the surround sound stage and defeat the point of expanding out to 7 channels. Use monopoles instead, ie regular bookshelf type speakers which radiate sound in one direction. They will perform better, sound better, and cost less.

Fourth, instead of a Denon AVR-x3000, get an X4000. It has better room correction calibration, Audyssey XT32, and it can calibrate dual subs independently, which will be a big plus for your setup. It will be significantly better without costing a whole lot more.

If I were to get a Klipsch setup in a five to six grand budget, I would go with: RB81 fronts, RC62 center, RB51 surrounds. For the subs, I would go for a pair Reaction PV15x or Hsu VTF15h. Another system which would be brutal is: Ascend CMT340s for front left/right and center, CBM170s for surrounds, and dual Rythmik FV15HP for subs, which would be an absolutely monstrous sound and would blow all your guests away.
To mount the surrounds, use some Videosecu side-clamping mounts. Get your speaker and HDMI cable from blue-jeans cables. Those systems would be roughly the same price as the others, but it will dramatically outperform them.
+1, this is excellent advice OP. I don't think bipole/dipole are bad to use, they just create a different sound experience. I personally use bookshelf speakers for surrounds.

The Ascend + Rythmik setup would be fantastic, those subs are impressive and would give you a better-than-movie-theater experience.
shadyJ's Avatar shadyJ 07:06 AM 07-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
I don't think bipole/dipole are back to use, they just create a different sound experience.
I could have made my statements less blunt. To put my statements another way, bipole/dipole type surround speakers create a deliberately ambiguous sound stage, in order to project an ambient sound. This makes some sense for 5.1 systems, because much of surround sound is just that- ambient sounds. However, 7.1, and now Atmos configurations, allow (and demand, in the case of Atmos) for far more definition and localization in surround channel sound mixes than what dipole/dipole speakers are capable of. By modern soundtrack standards, they are obsolete. What I always saw as a problem is that properly setup monopoles can offer just as much of a spacious sound as dipole/bipoles. In other words, monopoles can do everything bipoles/dipoles can do, but bipoles/dipoles can not do nearly as much as monopoles.
helmsman's Avatar helmsman 07:42 AM 07-28-2014
Interesting discussion on monopoles vs. bipole/dipoles for surrounds that I hadn't really thought about before. My 7.1 setup uses the latter. The one point I would make is that the vast majority of my BR library is DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM 5.1 (I use Movie Collector software to catalogue my library and keep track of audio formats and aspect ratios) and these still seem to be the favored formats for current and new releases. My collection is currently running at 12% for 6.1 and 7.1 content. My point here is that it will be a while before content drives the need for definition and localization of surround channels. And that's just BR. If you stream or watch cable/satellite premium or on-demand it's even more distant.
jedimario 08:22 AM 07-28-2014
I have been sending PMs, but I wanted to just thank everyone for your amazing feedback. Prior to this thread, I was completely under the belief that dipole/bipoles would be the future-proof solution so I greatly appreciate the feedback.

One question I noticed in my first listening test was I tend to gravitate towards higher clarity and better high and mid performance for speakers as compared to more bass. Would that affect any of the recommendations (aside from the Def Techs) as it seems these are all really good speakers being recommended?

Thanks again for everyone's help!
Bassfeen's Avatar Bassfeen 08:24 AM 07-28-2014
I have a Full Danley system for sale but its above your budget but if you can stretch it I think these will give you many many years of enjoyment and power to spare.
mpjmeyer's Avatar mpjmeyer 08:54 AM 07-28-2014
Check out SVS. You get a 45 day trial with all their speakers that provide brilliant, cinematic sound. They also have dual sub packages. If for some reason you're not satisfied, they pay for the return shipping and a full refund, no questions asked I love their customer service. When you call, you speak to their team who all has hands on training with all their products and will help you set up all your settings on your receiver for optimal performance.
AcuDefTechGuy 09:06 AM 07-28-2014
For 15' x 16' room, I would go with 5.1, instead of 7.1.

I would get 4 RBH SX-6300 towers + 1 RBH SX-661C. MSRP total is $5,900, but you may be able to find great deals on them. Send me a PM if you need help finding the deals.

And with your room size of 15' x 16' x 8', the 4 towers alone in Active bi-amped mode (LFE to twelve 6.5" subwoofers) may be enough bass to shake your room like a rag doll. You could always add more subs later if you don't think the bass is enough. But I think it will be enough based on my experience.

In terms of LFE/bass output, one SX-6300 tower is similar to one SX-10 (10") subwoofer (assuming other variables are equal). So four 10" subs in a 15' x 16' room is probably pretty good.

http://rbhsound.com/sx6300.php

I also think you should get the Denon X4000 for Audyssey XT32 + Dual Sub EQ. You can also find great deals on the AVR.
SyntheticShrimp's Avatar SyntheticShrimp 09:43 AM 07-28-2014
While I agree that dipoles should be avoided (in general, but especially for object oriented surround), I think I should add a correction.

Bipolar surrounds do not, at all, behave similarly to dipolar surrounds and shouldn't be lumped together in a discussion. Bipolar surrounds radiate in phase at a specific geometry and essentially become like a really wide dispersion monopole. What this means is that any given place in the listening area is likely to have a sound spectrum and amplitude similar to on-axis, so bipolar surrounds would often be more localizable than monopoles. Dipoles, on the other hand, radiate out of phase and create a null on axis. The null doesn't extend into low frequencies, however, so sitting on axis is like listening to a low passed speaker.

Let's also not ignore the fact that wall mounted surround speakers are typically in an environment closer to their design specifications. A bookshelf is designed to be used in 4pi whereas a good surround speaker will take into account the adjacent boundary effects of being in 2pi (on a wall). All of this adds up to some significant advantages for bipoles over monopoles, especially for someone who doesn't have the time/resources to do a lot of calibration.
mtn-tech's Avatar mtn-tech 10:57 AM 07-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario View Post
Prior to this thread, I was completely under the belief that dipole/bipoles would be the future-proof solution so I greatly appreciate the feedback.
Whether you use Dipoles or Bipoles for surround speakers is completely personal preference - there is nothing techically "wrong" with either of these when used as surround speakers - in fact they are often recommended. I have an old pair of surround speakers that can be switched between Dipole and Bipole operation with a simple flip of a switch so I could try them both ways - I too decided that I don't really like Dipole operation for the surround channel in a 5.1 or 7.1 setup with its airy / hollow sound (my personal preference) so I always used them in Bipole mode.

I also have the matching bookshelf speakers from the same line so I tried them as direct radiator surrounds to the sides and found the sound was much too distracting and noticeable. I then moved them up a couple of feet as recommended by Dolby and liked them a little better but this didn't help as much as I thought it would.

Using my surround speakers in Bipole mode was always the best compromise for me and mounting them high on the sides made them even better. I found that I liked the sound very much - the more direct sound like the direct radiators but with a fuller / spread out quality without the hollow "head in a barrel" sound that you get from Dipoles. Don't group Dipoles and Bipoles together and dismiss them both - they sound very different.

The other thing to take into account is the baffle angle between the two banks of drivers on a Bipole speaker. Many older dedicated surround Dipole / Bipole speakers (like mine) have a large a very large angle between the drivers - most about 270 degrees where one set of drivers points mostly forward and the others mostly backward - so there is quite a lot of indirect sound at the listening position. My new in-wall Bipole surround speakers have a very small angle between the two sets of drivers - maybe only 30 degrees - so the sound is mostly direct with a little bit of non-directional sound to make them harder to locate sonically. I like this style even better for surround. The difference between direct radiation and Bipole isn't always black and white (like it is with Dipole) as some would have you believe - go demo some and listen for yourself.


mtn-tech's Avatar mtn-tech 12:12 PM 07-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario View Post
One question I noticed in my first listening test was I tend to gravitate towards higher clarity and better high and mid performance for speakers as compared to more bass. Would that affect any of the recommendations (aside from the Def Techs) as it seems these are all really good speakers being recommended?
That is what I really like in a speaker too - slightly bright speakers with a "crisp" sound - so I tend to gravitate to bookshelf designs with their simpler crossovers and nearly point source, compact design - they sound like they "smear" the sound a lot less than towers. Now you are wondering why I recommended Paradigm towers? Because most bookshelf designs are SO small - just a single 6" mid-range driver has a hard time producing really full mid-bass. Your subs are going to be amazing, but crossed over at 80Hz means that the subs are already cut off to half power at 80Hz and the front speakers and center really need to be up to the task of filling in that mid-bass to blend with the huge sound your subs are going to produce.

There are a hundred treads about the trade offs between bookshelf and tower and many will tell you that equally good drivers in two different size cabinets are going to sound the same - absolutely not true - more than any one thing the cabinet determines the driver response AND its sensitivity. And I always see this "one $100 driver vs two $50 drivers" nonsense - we are comparing apples to apples so it is really the difference between one $100 driver and two or three $100 drivers. Yes, towers are usually moderately more sensitive than bookshelfs with higher power handling - but this isn't the reason they sound different - those only give a tiny amount of higher volume and says nothing about max SPL or frequency response at max SPL (which are NEVER specified). It is no surprise that at one meter at one watt there isn't much difference. The difference is in a large room at much higher levels - obviously you must push a single driver harder to produce 100dB than the equivalent tower that has several drivers (being pushed to a fraction of their capability) whose total sum is that same 100dB.

You would think that as long as the speaker has a -3dB rating down to the crossover frequency it shouldn't matter but it does. The bass management high pass crossover is electronically cutting the power to half at the crossover frequency and if the bookshelf has some natural rolloff above the crossover frequency they combine and you get a dip in mid-bass. Bigger speakers (with bigger cabinets) from the same speaker line typically have smoother frequency response down to their natural rolloff which is going to be lower. You really want a flat frequency response down to your crossover point - no one is going to argue that. The frequency response curve will show the difference between the two - especially in the mid-bass 60Hz to 200Hz and how steeply the bass rolls off above your 80Hz crossover.

Look at Chart 2 - Listening Window (average on-axis / off-axis response)
Frequency Response Curves of the Paradigm Studio 10 Bookshelf
Frequency Response Curves of the Paradigm Studio 60 Tower

The decision for bookshelf speakers for me was one of aesthetics and practicality - I would have rather have towers. I had to get bookshelfs on steel stands to protect them from damage (vacuum and little hands) in my shared room - you may have similar issues. My solution was to get the biggest bookshelf speakers that I could find (basically small stand mounted towwrs) as I wasn't satisfied with the mid-bass from smaller bookshelfs - my Paradigm S4 speakers are a 43lb each, 22" high, 2.5-way design with a 7" mid-range and a 7" woofer. But these are hard to find and are expensive - and you have to buy stands for them. If you can, just get some modest size towers with flat frequency response.
mtn-tech's Avatar mtn-tech 12:38 PM 07-28-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario View Post
So far, friends have suggested I look at:
Definitive Technology's Center: Mythos Nine
Klipsch's Center Channel: Reference RC-62 II
Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimario View Post
I tend to gravitate towards higher clarity and better high and mid performance for speakers as compared to more bass. Would that affect any of the recommendations (aside from the Def Techs) as it seems these are all really good speakers being recommended?
It should affect speaker recommendations - especially for the center channel speaker. This time I'll try not to write a novel but just say that both of those center speakers are Mid-Tweeter-Mid, which for several reasons, are not ideal for center channel speaker duty even if the manufacturer claims that they were "designed" for center channel use. When placed on their ends, this design has inherently good horizontal dispersion but poor vertical dispersion. Now when placed on their side, the poor vertical dispersion becomes poor horizontal dispersion - which is a problem for a center channel speaker sending sound to listeners around the room.

I have a couple of links below, but the issue is simple. These are both two-way designs (which for other speakers I prefer) and require the crossover between tweeter and mids to be quite high - say 1500 - 2000Hz. Problem with that is the soundtrack dialog is now mostly in the mid-range drivers which are physically separated by several inches and when sitting anywhere in the room other than directly in the center the drivers are different distances from the listeners ears. Dialog frequencies that are high enough (and short enough wavelengths) will have phase and cancellation issues and will make the dialog hard to understand.

MTM Center Channel Speakers and Why They Should Be Avoided
Center Channel Speaker Design Additional Considerations

What you should be looking for in a center channel speaker is a very low crossover to the woofers (best accomplished with a three-way design) and the woofers as close together as possible - like the Paradigm Center 3 that I recommended. I used to have three identical MTM speakers across the front and the center always sounded very different from the L/R unless I stood it on end (which I couldn't do) and the dialog was always hard to understand. Look for a three-way center speaker with a vertical Tweeter-Mid and avoid this problem altogether.
RayGuy's Avatar RayGuy 05:05 PM 07-28-2014
I would like to add to the discussion regarding bi-pole and di-pole speakers. IMO, di-pole is useful when the seating is against the rear wall of the room. This allow the speakers to be a bit forward of the listening position, without seeming like it. This is actually an advantage when the speaker is so close to the rear wall. It allows the speaker to convey ambiance without an annoying, "Oh it's coming from the corner" soundstage.

Of course, the room, and personal taste, enter into the ultimate decision. Speaker choices are situational ... much like politician's ethics!
Tags: 7.2-Channel , Definitive Technology , Denon , Home Theater , Klipsch
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