A little help: Speaker selection, placement for new 5.1 system. Bookshelf speakers - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 07-29-2014, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
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A little help: Speaker selection, placement for new 5.1 system. Bookshelf speakers

I am in the process of finishing up my basement and have been visiting many forums like this trying to figure out what speaker system to get and just how high end I should go. My max budget is a couple thousand for the entire system including sub and receiver but lower is always better right now. The goal is to have a better space for watching movies, playing games, and entertaining friends. I prefer bookshelf speakers because I don't want something big and will have a sub anyways.

I have attached a diagram of my basement floor plan. The grey areas are hard tile, the rest is carpet. The space at the top left is where the TV will be going. I will be building in some basic shelving or buying a stand but leaving breathing room on the bottom sides for a computer tower and probably the sub. Behind the TV wall is the mechanical room with furnace and water heater and otherwise generally open 10ft square space currently not insulated and full of tools. At the front of the TV area is a steel support beam wrapped in drywall that sticks down about 11 inches and runs the width of the house (left to right). Ceiling height is just shy of 8ft. The fireplace will be covered in stone and the cavity behind it is quite hollow. So there will be a few hard surfaces and spaces I might need to insulate in the room to improve the sound quality.

That should be enough information about the space but if there are any questions I will be happy to answer.

The primary use will be video games(PC, many consoles) followed by movies and TV (including netflix, hulu, etc.) so a 5.1 setup is important. I don't anticipate much music playing but that could all change if it becomes a relaxing hangout space. Right now I have:
Pioneer VSX-819H receiver
4x Polk Audio RM7 speakers,
Polk Audio RM7 Center
Polk Audio PSW111 sub (I think its starting to die, it was acting weird for 2 months then went back to normal)

I was extremely happy with the setup when I first purchased it 5 years ago but I have since been spoiled with experiencing quality speakers and love hearing the full clarity and sound stage afforded by a good setup. I now understand and appreciate the difference between that and just 'hearing the speaker' which I mostly never understood from pure ignorance and not knowing anyone with a quality audio system my entire life. My above system is at least 5 times what anyone I know has ever spent on audio as I grew up with just the TVs built in speakers. I play a wide variety of games and love watching movies of all types. The most important things to me are clarity, realism, accuracy, and definitely don't want something to be too 'bright' or tinny sounding. My ears are sensitive to higher pitched noises. I frequently pick out something like electrical whine from a low grade transformer a couple rooms away and if something sounds out of place it will draw my attention like a bug zapper draws insects.

I went to a Magnolia center and listened to a few speakers in 2.0 setup.
I listened to B&W M-1 and they sounded a bit harsh or maybe closed in but still significant steps up from what I am using now. Next came the Martin Logan Motion 4 which I liked a lot more and had an interesting shape. They sounded more full and clear and then there were the Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 which sounded very good to me and I loved their styling but the price was a bit higher than I think I would like to spend. Also at basically double the Martin Logan price it wasn't that significant of an upgrade when listening to music but over time I might grow to dislike something like the ML as mains. Might be different with movies but I didn't get to test that. I am willing to spend a bit more for aesthetics too; something with curves, piano black or high gloss white would be great (and high WAF, I think her biggest concern is money though). Neither of us really like the cheaper fake wood veneers but a bamboo might be OK.

TL;DR: Room is roughly 13x18 but the entertainment area is 13x10. Need something on the smaller size so that they can be on the shelf in the front next to the TV without blocking it and not having the speakers up against the walls but there is plenty of horizontal space even if we get a 70" TV or so (the one thing the wife actually wants is 65" minimum). Also want something a little bit more compact for the surrounds because of the sofa and wall positions and don't want giant boxes next to our heads. If they can be put behind the sofa or slightly behind and just fill in the spatial awareness parts without being the odd man out, would be best. The sofa will also recline. Will be used 60% games, 40% movies/tv, and music might squeeze its way in over the years but probably less than 5%.

Would like a little feedback on the following list of options and how they might compare or a general cost benefit between multiple speakers from the same brand as the price varies wildly in my list. Are there some nice looking speakers in similar price ranges that I haven't mentioned? There aren't many audio dealers near me without a long drive so internet direct or something I can pick up from Magnolia or Amazon would be great. USA.

LCR: Ascend: Sierra-1, or CBM-370; Sonus Faber: Venere 1.5; Paradigm: MilleniaOne or Studio 10 (whats the matching center for the studio 10?)
Surrounds: Anything small enough to put behind the sofa or on stands in the corner without moving the sofa more than 1ft from the wall?
Was thinking of using my current Polk speakers for that for a while or: B&W: M1 ; Axiom: M3 or QS4 ; Ascend: HTM-200; Martin Logan: Motion-4
Sub: HSU VTF15 or VTF-2, SVS PB-1000, PB-2000, or SB12-NSD

And of course, really appreciate any feedback offered to me and already appreciate much of the feedback I have read from other threads.
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post #2 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 06:15 AM
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I would take a look at the NHT Absolute Zero bookshelves and center. They are excellent speakers, and use a sealed acoustic supsension design so they are more compact and allow for easier placement. They come in a very sharp piano black finish, and offer a clear and accurate sound. Pair them with the Outlaw LFM-1 EX (on sale until tomorrow at midnight, don't wait!) and you have a fantastic system. For a receiver, I would consider the Denon AVR-X2000, it has Audyssey MultEQ XT and 7.1 in case you want to expand or add a zone 2.

Another good option would be HSU, they come in black or a real wood rosenut veneer which is anything but cheap looking. I would recommend the Hybrid 3 5.1 system, it comes with an excellent sub woofer and the speakers offer a clear and dynamic sound. http://hsuresearch.com/products/hybrid3pkg.html
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post #3 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TragicBus View Post
I am in the process of finishing up my basement and have been visiting many forums like this trying to figure out what speaker system to get and just how high end I should go. My max budget is a couple thousand for the entire system including sub and receiver but lower is always better right now. The goal is to have a better space for watching movies, playing games, and entertaining friends. I prefer bookshelf speakers because I don't want something big and will have a sub anyways.

I have attached a diagram of my basement floor plan. The grey areas are hard tile, the rest is carpet. The space at the top left is where the TV will be going. I will be building in some basic shelving or buying a stand but leaving breathing room on the bottom sides for a computer tower and probably the sub. Behind the TV wall is the mechanical room with furnace and water heater and otherwise generally open 10ft square space currently not insulated and full of tools. At the front of the TV area is a steel support beam wrapped in drywall that sticks down about 11 inches and runs the width of the house (left to right). Ceiling height is just shy of 8ft. The fireplace will be covered in stone and the cavity behind it is quite hollow. So there will be a few hard surfaces and spaces I might need to insulate in the room to improve the sound quality.

That should be enough information about the space but if there are any questions I will be happy to answer.

The primary use will be video games(PC, many consoles) followed by movies and TV (including netflix, hulu, etc.) so a 5.1 setup is important. I don't anticipate much music playing but that could all change if it becomes a relaxing hangout space. Right now I have:
Pioneer VSX-819H receiver
4x Polk Audio RM7 speakers,
Polk Audio RM7 Center
Polk Audio PSW111 sub (I think its starting to die, it was acting weird for 2 months then went back to normal)

I was extremely happy with the setup when I first purchased it 5 years ago but I have since been spoiled with experiencing quality speakers and love hearing the full clarity and sound stage afforded by a good setup. I now understand and appreciate the difference between that and just 'hearing the speaker' which I mostly never understood from pure ignorance and not knowing anyone with a quality audio system my entire life. My above system is at least 5 times what anyone I know has ever spent on audio as I grew up with just the TVs built in speakers. I play a wide variety of games and love watching movies of all types. The most important things to me are clarity, realism, accuracy, and definitely don't want something to be too 'bright' or tinny sounding. My ears are sensitive to higher pitched noises. I frequently pick out something like electrical whine from a low grade transformer a couple rooms away and if something sounds out of place it will draw my attention like a bug zapper draws insects.

I went to a Magnolia center and listened to a few speakers in 2.0 setup.
I listened to B&W M-1 and they sounded a bit harsh or maybe closed in but still significant steps up from what I am using now. Next came the Martin Logan Motion 4 which I liked a lot more and had an interesting shape. They sounded more full and clear and then there were the Sonus Faber Venere 1.5 which sounded very good to me and I loved their styling but the price was a bit higher than I think I would like to spend. Also at basically double the Martin Logan price it wasn't that significant of an upgrade when listening to music but over time I might grow to dislike something like the ML as mains. Might be different with movies but I didn't get to test that. I am willing to spend a bit more for aesthetics too; something with curves, piano black or high gloss white would be great (and high WAF, I think her biggest concern is money though). Neither of us really like the cheaper fake wood veneers but a bamboo might be OK.

TL;DR: Room is roughly 13x18 but the entertainment area is 13x10. Need something on the smaller size so that they can be on the shelf in the front next to the TV without blocking it and not having the speakers up against the walls but there is plenty of horizontal space even if we get a 70" TV or so (the one thing the wife actually wants is 65" minimum). Also want something a little bit more compact for the surrounds because of the sofa and wall positions and don't want giant boxes next to our heads. If they can be put behind the sofa or slightly behind and just fill in the spatial awareness parts without being the odd man out, would be best. The sofa will also recline. Will be used 60% games, 40% movies/tv, and music might squeeze its way in over the years but probably less than 5%.

Would like a little feedback on the following list of options and how they might compare or a general cost benefit between multiple speakers from the same brand as the price varies wildly in my list. Are there some nice looking speakers in similar price ranges that I haven't mentioned? There aren't many audio dealers near me without a long drive so internet direct or something I can pick up from Magnolia or Amazon would be great. USA.

LCR: Ascend: Sierra-1, or CBM-370; Sonus Faber: Venere 1.5; Paradigm: MilleniaOne or Studio 10 (whats the matching center for the studio 10?)
Surrounds: Anything small enough to put behind the sofa or on stands in the corner without moving the sofa more than 1ft from the wall?
Was thinking of using my current Polk speakers for that for a while or: B&W: M1 ; Axiom: M3 or QS4 ; Ascend: HTM-200; Martin Logan: Motion-4
Sub: HSU VTF15 or VTF-2, SVS PB-1000, PB-2000, or SB12-NSD

And of course, really appreciate any feedback offered to me and already appreciate much of the feedback I have read from other threads.
If you would like to talk speakers, give us a call. Of what you are looking at, we carry the Martin Logan, Polk and SVS speakers and subs.

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post #4 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 07:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post
I would take a look at the NHT Absolute Zero bookshelves and center. They are excellent speakers, and use a sealed acoustic supsension design so they are more compact and allow for easier placement. They come in a very sharp piano black finish, and offer a clear and accurate sound. Pair them with the Outlaw LFM-1 EX (on sale until tomorrow at midnight, don't wait!) and you have a fantastic system. For a receiver, I would consider the Denon AVR-X2000, it has Audyssey MultEQ XT and 7.1 in case you want to expand or add a zone 2.

Another good option would be HSU, they come in black or a real wood rosenut veneer which is anything but cheap looking. I would recommend the Hybrid 3 5.1 system, it comes with an excellent sub woofer and the speakers offer a clear and dynamic sound. http://hsuresearch.com/products/hybrid3pkg.html
Thanks for the reply. I hadn't looked at the NHT speakers. They seem to fall somewhere in the middle of my list in performance but are small AND have at least some semblance of styling. At the very least they might make for great surrounds if I choose something else for the front.

How do the Hsu bookshelf speakers compare in quality to some of the other speakers I mentioned? If I was getting their packaged set I would probably get the Hybrid 2 setup because I was worried about the side firing sub which would be firing directly at a wall/corner or the sofa depending on where I put it. Was wondering if it would still be worth a couple hundred dollars more to continue looking at the VTF-15 since I will be mostly gaming and movies.

How does the Outlaw LFM-1 compare to the Hsu or SVS subs? Just because its on sale doesn't make it the right buy. I plan to use these speakers for a long time and just want to make sure its worth it for me.

For receivers I'm still looking around. I will try to use my current one for a while if possible because I will absolutely need HDMI 2.0 for full 4K support from my PC to TV and there were very few receivers right now that I liked.
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post #5 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 07:56 AM
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Some of the things that you said about sensitivity to "bright or tinny" sound and the fact that you liked the Sonus Faber (which most consider a "warm" speaker) leads me to believe you are most interested in a warmer sound. That will rule out my usual low budget suggestions of Polk and Infinity - but you have a higher budget so that is OK.

The matching center for the Paradigm Studio 10 is the CC-490 - these are great speakers (and I love mine) but I consider these "slightly bright" - have you listened to them? That would put the front three speakers at about $2000 plus subs which seems out of the budget. If you really do like Paradigm, listen to / consider the Monitor Series - nearly the same performance for much less money and a great center channel speaker that will make your HT sound amazing - but these fronts are rear ported which won't work on a shallow shelf

Fronts: Paradigm Mini Monitor - $299 each
Center: Paradigm Center 3 - $599
Surround: Paradigm Atom Monitor - $199 each

I would also suggest NHT speakers - they are a very neutral acoustic suspension bookshelf speaker which can actually be placed on a shelf (imagine!) with very smooth mids, not bright or boomy - you should listen to a pair to see if you like the sound. I have a mint pair of Classic Two's at the office that I bought used on eBay and I can listen to them all day (or night) without fatigue. This would be my ideal "small home theater" system:

Fronts: NHT Classic Two Bookshelf Speaker - $330 each
Center: NHT TwoC Center Channel Speaker - 3 way design for better dialog - $450
Surround: NHT Absolute Zero Bookshelf Speaker - $220 each
OR
Surround: Absolute Wall Speaker White - $220 each


I like your choice in subs and your plans for dual subs - I don't think you can go wrong there if you can fit it in the budget:
Subs: SVS Dual PB-1000 300 Watt DSP Controlled, 10" Ported Subwoofers - $949

2-Ch (HT L/R): Oppo BDP-105 BD, Adcom GFP-750 pre, Bryston 10B Sub Xover, Bryston 4BSST2, Paradigm Signature S4 v.2, (2) SVS SB12-NSD subs, AQ & Cardas XLR
Home Theater: Bryston 4BSST2 amp / Paradigm CC-590 (C), Outlaw 7700 amp / (4) Def Tech UIW-RSSII (LS/RS/LB/RB), Samsung 46” 3D LCD
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post #6 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 08:14 AM
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Surrounds should be placed directly to the sides (90 degrees) to slightly behind (110 degrees). Obviously this is a challenge for any room layout that has the listening position against the rear wall. You could use the Absolute Zeros (or two of your current speakers) with ceiling mounts and angle them over the listening position.

Another surround option: Two of my "shared room" home theater setups had the same issue and for both of them I decided to use in-wall speakers in the ceiling to the sides of the listening position pointing straight down. Since these were placed about 18" from the back wall, there is a lot of reflected sound (intentionally) giving a more diffuse sound and making speakers harder to locate. In-wall speakers really need a rear enclosure for high volume / HT use so you would have to build DIY enclosures above them or select ones that have this feature (Triad, Def Tech UIW, etc)

These are a brighter speaker than the NHT or Paradigm but usually not an issue for surrounds - I like their bigger brothers in my room:

Def Tech UIW RSS III - list $499, can be had for $300 - $350


2-Ch (HT L/R): Oppo BDP-105 BD, Adcom GFP-750 pre, Bryston 10B Sub Xover, Bryston 4BSST2, Paradigm Signature S4 v.2, (2) SVS SB12-NSD subs, AQ & Cardas XLR
Home Theater: Bryston 4BSST2 amp / Paradigm CC-590 (C), Outlaw 7700 amp / (4) Def Tech UIW-RSSII (LS/RS/LB/RB), Samsung 46” 3D LCD
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post #7 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TragicBus View Post
Thanks for the reply. I hadn't looked at the NHT speakers. They seem to fall somewhere in the middle of my list in performance but are small AND have at least some semblance of styling. At the very least they might make for great surrounds if I choose something else for the front.

How do the Hsu bookshelf speakers compare in quality to some of the other speakers I mentioned? If I was getting their packaged set I would probably get the Hybrid 2 setup because I was worried about the side firing sub which would be firing directly at a wall/corner or the sofa depending on where I put it. Was wondering if it would still be worth a couple hundred dollars more to continue looking at the VTF-15 since I will be mostly gaming and movies.

How does the Outlaw LFM-1 compare to the Hsu or SVS subs? Just because its on sale doesn't make it the right buy. I plan to use these speakers for a long time and just want to make sure its worth it for me.

For receivers I'm still looking around. I will try to use my current one for a while if possible because I will absolutely need HDMI 2.0 for full 4K support from my PC to TV and there were very few receivers right now that I liked.
With internet direct companies like HSU and NHT, you get a lot more bang for your buck so don't put so much stock in the prices compared to somewhere like Best Buy where you are paying dealer markups. I would say quality wise they are all comparable, Sonus is likely a step above and so is the upper end ML stuff, but that is out of your price range. Sound wise it's hard to say since everyone hears differently. I own NHT and the detail and clarity is fantastic, I replaced studio monitors with the little SuperZeros, so accuracy is definitely one of their strong suits. HSU makes very good products and has been doing it for a long time, they are strong contenders.

I think the Hybrid Three is still a better choice, the VTF3 MK4 is an excellent sub. Note that bass is omni-directional, so you don't necessarily have to "point" the sub at anything. The VTF 15H would be a nice upgrade, but I would probably save and get a second VTF3 MK4 instead. Dual subs offer better bass response throughout the room and really improve the experience.

The Outlaw LFM-1 EX is comparable to the SVS PB-2000 and VTF3 MK4, but at $599 the value is exceptional.
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post #8 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
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I will take a serious look at the NHT and Paradigm choices again. One reason I kept getting drawn to the Ascend speakers was how great the reviews always are for them and now neutral everyone says they are.... but the aesthetics keep driving me away. Its just a box... even if its a pretty box.

I had thought about in-ceiling speakers but my kitchen is right above that part of the basement(dish washer, sink, HVAC lines) and the back wall is a single 2x4 thick (3.5") and then cement so I didn't want to deal with that unless I had to. I can probably build shelves for some of the smaller speakers that were recommended or get ceiling mounted speakers if my other options fail me.

For now I think my best bet might be to wait a couple weeks or so until the basement is more finished and lug my current system down there and play around with speaker placements and get a feel for the room before deciding how to handle the rear/surrounds. Or at least wait until I can audition some speakers in the room they will actually be used in. Right now the room is basically empty except for piles of tools and paint and the living room (where my old stuff is located) has absolutely no space for anything bigger than the Polk RM7s and that setup is already way below optimal.

Thanks again everyone.
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post #9 of 12 Old 07-30-2014, 09:49 AM
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I would put the NHT on a short list.

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post #10 of 12 Old 07-31-2014, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mtn-tech View Post
Some of the things that you said about sensitivity to "bright or tinny" sound and the fact that you liked the Sonus Faber (which most consider a "warm" speaker) leads me to believe you are most interested in a warmer sound. That will rule out my usual low budget suggestions of Polk and Infinity - but you have a higher budget so that is OK.

The matching center for the Paradigm Studio 10 is the CC-490 - these are great speakers (and I love mine) but I consider these "slightly bright" - have you listened to them? That would put the front three speakers at about $2000 plus subs which seems out of the budget. If you really do like Paradigm, listen to / consider the Monitor Series - nearly the same performance for much less money and a great center channel speaker that will make your HT sound amazing - but these fronts are rear ported which won't work on a shallow shelf

Fronts: Paradigm Mini Monitor - $299 each
Center: Paradigm Center 3 - $599
Surround: Paradigm Atom Monitor - $199 each

I would also suggest NHT speakers - they are a very neutral acoustic suspension bookshelf speaker which can actually be placed on a shelf (imagine!) with very smooth mids, not bright or boomy - you should listen to a pair to see if you like the sound. I have a mint pair of Classic Two's at the office that I bought used on eBay and I can listen to them all day (or night) without fatigue. This would be my ideal "small home theater" system:

Fronts: NHT Classic Two Bookshelf Speaker - $330 each
Center: NHT TwoC Center Channel Speaker - 3 way design for better dialog - $450
Surround: NHT Absolute Zero Bookshelf Speaker - $220 each
OR
Surround: Absolute Wall Speaker White - $220 each

I like your choice in subs and your plans for dual subs - I don't think you can go wrong there if you can fit it in the budget:
Subs: SVS Dual PB-1000 300 Watt DSP Controlled, 10" Ported Subwoofers - $949
I think I am leaning towards the NHT Classic Two or Threes for my mains and either the Absolute Zeros or Absolute On Wall speakers for my surrounds and/or rears (if I eventually do 7.1/.2 should my space ever allow for it). The problem I have with the wall speakers is how they are mounted. I did some looking around and it didn't appear there were pivoting brackets for them so that I can position them the right way and that they just hung on the wall on a screw only. Maybe I missed something though. It still wouldn't be hard to fake some of the other brackets and make it work. I was thinking of getting some wall mounts and attaching the surrounds and rears to the ceiling around the listening positions and pointing them down. Could even set up a Zone 2 on the other side of the room in a similar way for music or entertaining.

After looking at many of the subs and reading reviews I am still drawn to the Hsu VTF-3 and SVS PB-2000. Anything bigger would be a nuisance in size for my space and decor, not to mention probably overkill for my needs. Re-measured the tv wall area depth and its only 24". So dropping back a bit and contemplating 2 subs more seriously; what should I expect a difference performance wise? Lets say I went with the dual PB-1000 or similar instead of one VTF-3 or PB-2000. What would I be missing or gaining (theoretically)? Not too concerned about budget and I could always grab a second sub in a couple months or next year if getting one better sub now would make a noticeable difference (assuming I still might get 2 of them). I don't want the house to fall down, I just want to hear full bodied sounds and feeling some of the low bass or explosions/gunfire/special effects/action in video games would be nice.

I think overall I want clarity of sound, a good sound stage, quality products/builds, and reliability. I could just as easily spend $5000 total instead of what I've mentioned before but the performance gains seemed extremely minimal for my needs or unnecessary given the fact that I will have a sub or 2 and playing almost no music plus the size of my room.

Please correct any of my statements or enlighten me as I am quite the newbie to 'high-end' gear and theory.
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post #11 of 12 Old 07-31-2014, 07:17 PM
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I would move the sofa off the back wall 2 or 3 ft. My room is 13ft long and my sofa is 3ft from the back wall and my 70" is one foot off the front wall. I could still go with a bigger screen. Having the listening position up against the wall just creates issues, especially with bass.

I would look to get the best sub you can now and then plan to add another down the road. It's not so much about output with the second sub as it is with getting better more even bass throughout the room and most importantly at the listening positions.

Can't go wrong with NHT speakers either.

For your intended use Klipsch would be a viable choice too. I really like mine for HT and gaming use.

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post #12 of 12 Old 08-01-2014, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TragicBus View Post
I think I am leaning towards the NHT Classic Two or Threes for my mains and either the Absolute Zeros or Absolute On Wall speakers for my surrounds and/or rears (if I eventually do 7.1/.2 should my space ever allow for it). The problem I have with the wall speakers is how they are mounted. I did some looking around and it didn't appear there were pivoting brackets for them so that I can position them the right way and that they just hung on the wall on a screw only. Maybe I missed something though. It still wouldn't be hard to fake some of the other brackets and make it work. I was thinking of getting some wall mounts and attaching the surrounds and rears to the ceiling around the listening positions and pointing them down. Could even set up a Zone 2 on the other side of the room in a similar way for music or entertaining.
I love the Classic Two speakers that I have at work - I wish I could turn them up more often. I listened to them in my main system for a week and was very happy with the sound. Smoother that my Paradigms, but still very detailed sound which was easy to listen to. I've never heard the Classic Three - but I'd like to - I think I could have been happy with them as my front speakers.

You are correct about the Absolute Wall - they are hung by a keyhole on the back - no option for aiming. Both the SuperOne (if you want the larger woofer and want to save money) and the Absolute Zero (smaller speaker, better looks and matches the fronts) have threaded mounting holes in the back - the OmniMounts allow you to aim and I think they look nice.



Quote:
Originally Posted by TragicBus View Post
After looking at many of the subs and reading reviews I am still drawn to the Hsu VTF-3 and SVS PB-2000. Anything bigger would be a nuisance in size for my space and decor, not to mention probably overkill for my needs. Re-measured the tv wall area depth and its only 24". So dropping back a bit and contemplating 2 subs more seriously; what should I expect a difference performance wise? Lets say I went with the dual PB-1000 or similar instead of one VTF-3 or PB-2000. What would I be missing or gaining (theoretically)? Not too concerned about budget and I could always grab a second sub in a couple months or next year if getting one better sub now would make a noticeable difference (assuming I still might get 2 of them). I don't want the house to fall down, I just want to hear full bodied sounds and feeling some of the low bass or explosions/gunfire/special effects/action in video games would be nice.
You won't go wrong with either SVS or HSU - both great subs. Personally, I like sealed subs so I went with the SVS SB series - you give up some volume and low frequency extension but you get a smaller box, smoother / less boomy bass, and no port noise. The two smaller subs will give you more performance than one larger sub but more importantly will give you better placement options and will smooth out your in-room bass response. The down side is the cost and the fact that many AVRs don't EQ multiple subs. Until you upgrade to an AVR that can, you can just run them as one (daisy chained). If you choose good locations in your room, your bass will still be improved.

Since I decided to go sealed box, I just bit the bullet and got two bigger ones. The SVS SB-2000 (I have the previous version) will blow your mind and a pair of them is so powerful that they actually scared me the first time I turned them on and ran a sweep tone - I thought something was wrong because it sounded like the walls were coming down!

2-Ch (HT L/R): Oppo BDP-105 BD, Adcom GFP-750 pre, Bryston 10B Sub Xover, Bryston 4BSST2, Paradigm Signature S4 v.2, (2) SVS SB12-NSD subs, AQ & Cardas XLR
Home Theater: Bryston 4BSST2 amp / Paradigm CC-590 (C), Outlaw 7700 amp / (4) Def Tech UIW-RSSII (LS/RS/LB/RB), Samsung 46” 3D LCD
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