If the next step is a speaker upgrade, what would I have to spend? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews

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post #1 of 71 Old 01-11-2016, 09:53 PM - Thread Starter
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If the next step is a speaker upgrade, what would I have to spend?

I make baby steps in home theater, because I'm on a limited budget. I currently have (5.1) Polk Monitor 70's - L/R, CS2, Monitor 30's in the rear and an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus. I got some Christmas money and have been toying with the idea of a speaker upgrade. I'm good with the sub for now. Should I just upgrade the Left/Right/Center and leave the Monitor 30's in the back? The ultimate question is what would I really need to spend to make a noticeable jump? Back when I finally went from a budget sub to the Outlaw, at first I thought I could spend $350...but as I interacted on this forum it became apparent that I was better off waiting until I could spend $500-600, lest I be disappointed. So how much do I need for a valid speaker upgrade?
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post #2 of 71 Old 01-11-2016, 10:00 PM
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What feature(s) are you looking to improve ?

Go out and test drive a bunch in stores...
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post #3 of 71 Old 01-11-2016, 10:17 PM
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You could rock some Berry 215 XLs for around $220 a piece. So L/C/R for $660.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/deta...FQEcaQod9NQDzA


Or some Fusion 8s for a similar price of you don't mind ruling a box together.

http://www.diysoundgroup.com/wavegui.../fusion-8.html


For a littler more, you can get into Fusion 10s, 12s, or 15s.
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post #4 of 71 Old 01-11-2016, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracepreacher View Post
I make baby steps in home theater, because I'm on a limited budget. I currently have (5.1) Polk Monitor 70's - L/R, CS2, Monitor 30's in the rear and an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus. I got some Christmas money and have been toying with the idea of a speaker upgrade. I'm good with the sub for now. Should I just upgrade the Left/Right/Center and leave the Monitor 30's in the back? The ultimate question is what would I really need to spend to make a noticeable jump? Back when I finally went from a budget sub to the Outlaw, at first I thought I could spend $350...but as I interacted on this forum it became apparent that I was better off waiting until I could spend $500-600, lest I be disappointed. So how much do I need for a valid speaker upgrade?
I guess the first question would be, what is it you want to improve? Better to me is not better to you or anyone else here.

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post #5 of 71 Old 01-11-2016, 11:12 PM
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I had the Monitor 65 and 45 speakers with a 15 for a centre. I was absolutely satisfied with them. I started upgrading when I found some smoking deals that I couldn't resist.

Personally, I think you are heading down the road to disappointment. The speakers you have are more than adequate for both music and movies. I would attack this from a different angle. Go listen to some other systems. Take your time and explore everything that's on offer. Then go home and listen to your favourite music on your existing system. Still satisfied? Keep your money in your pocket, and upgrade ONLY when you find what you ABSOLUTELY must have.

Spoiler!
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post #6 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 06:15 AM
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Originally Posted by KJSteward View Post
I had the Monitor 65 and 45 speakers with a 15 for a centre. I was absolutely satisfied with them. I started upgrading when I found some smoking deals that I couldn't resist.

Personally, I think you are heading down the road to disappointment. The speakers you have are more than adequate for both music and movies. I would attack this from a different angle. Go listen to some other systems. Take your time and explore everything that's on offer. Then go home and listen to your favourite music on your existing system. Still satisfied? Keep your money in your pocket, and upgrade ONLY when you find what you ABSOLUTELY must have.
Possible to consider room treatments to improve what you already have?
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post #7 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 06:41 AM
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It hard to know how much you will need to spend to get an upgrade. As pointed out, we don't know what it is you are trying to improve on...better clarity? Better imaging? Clearer midbass? Better dialogue? If it isn't something inherent in your speakers, maybe 3-500 dollars on room treatments might be a better bang for the buck. But at the very least, I would guess 2x what you spend on the Polks to get you into a better class of speakers?

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post #8 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Elihawk View Post
It hard to know how much you will need to spend to get an upgrade. As pointed out, we don't know what it is you are trying to improve on...better clarity? Better imaging? Clearer midbass? Better dialogue? If it isn't something inherent in your speakers, maybe 3-500 dollars on room treatments might be a better bang for the buck. But at the very least, I would guess 2x what you spend on the Polks to get you into a better class of speakers?
Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm not great at multiquotes so let me just respond to some of the very helpful things mentioned:

What am I looking for? I wish I knew exactly. I'm a slow learner when it comes to identifying what is "not quite right" in what I hear and what the reason for this is. I THINK it is that the Polks are just so laid back. I want everything to just sound tighter and distinct...more present and "alive"??? I typically use this for 90% movies/10% Music, but I will say that when the music plays in a movie, I treat it as such, if that makes sense. I'm somewhat crippled placement-wise, as it is a family room with other furniture to work around...so a possible draw back is that my stereo imaging field is narrow...Polk tower on each side hugged up to a 50 inch plasma. So...I don't know if picking the proper left/rights might widen the image??? Up until a recent tweak, I was VERY disappointed with the weak midbass of the Polks...but someone suggested I try a much higher crossover setting to let the sub take it and I have to say, I'm much happier....though now I just wonder why on earth I have big ole towers if I'm cutting off all the low end. I'm waiting to give that tweak some time (actually just made the adjustment last night) to decide if it fully satisfies. I have little complaints at the dialogue, which is sounds like a tough battleground for several folks.

Going around to stores and listening is not easy for me. I live over an hour from any decent stores (rural). I also don't trust what I hear in another room...been around long enough to know how different things sound in different rooms. I've definitely thought more and more about trying out some ID speakers, but I've never been one to just "use" a company for my own experimentation...though I really do get the idea more and more that this is just built into the business plan, so I shouldn't feel guilty.

I don't mind saving my money...I've never been disappointed with saving up large sums of "pleasure cash" and then dropping it when the time is right....whether it is a hot deal, new and improved tech developments, or just giving myself the time to learn what I really want and need.

I doubt I will ever treat the family room.

If I had more time, I'd be getting into REW and serious manual processing. But alas, this is just not that season of life for me.

If I determine the front sound stage is adequate, I cannot imagine being disappointed in adding a second sub based on various testimonies around here. So that is on the radar.

Question: Where do my speakers fall on the acceptability range with this type of community? I know there are all types here...and I tread lightly with this question, but are my speakers "respectable"?
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post #9 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elihawk View Post
It hard to know how much you will need to spend to get an upgrade. As pointed out, we don't know what it is you are trying to improve on...better clarity? Better imaging? Clearer midbass? Better dialogue? If it isn't something inherent in your speakers, maybe 3-500 dollars on room treatments might be a better bang for the buck. But at the very least, I would guess 2x what you spend on the Polks to get you into a better class of speakers?
Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm not great at multiquotes so let me just respond to some of the very helpful things mentioned:

What am I looking for? I wish I knew exactly. I'm a slow learner when it comes to identifying what is "not quite right" in what I hear and what the reason for this is. I THINK it is that the Polks are just so laid back. I want everything to just sound tighter and distinct...more present and "alive"??? I typically use this for 90% movies/10% Music, but I will say that when the music plays in a movie, I treat it as such, if that makes sense. I'm somewhat crippled placement-wise, as it is a family room with other furniture to work around...so a possible draw back is that my stereo imaging field is narrow...Polk tower on each side hugged up to a 50 inch plasma. So...I don't know if picking the proper left/rights might widen the image??? Up until a recent tweak, I was VERY disappointed with the weak midbass of the Polks...but someone suggested I try a much higher crossover setting to let the sub take it and I have to say, I'm much happier....though now I just wonder why on earth I have big ole towers if I'm cutting off all the low end. I'm waiting to give that tweak some time (actually just made the adjustment last night) to decide if it fully satisfies. I have little complaints at the dialogue, which is sounds like a tough battleground for several folks.

Going around to stores and listening is not easy for me. I live over an hour from any decent stores (rural). I also don't trust what I hear in another room...been around long enough to know how different things sound in different rooms. I've definitely thought more and more about trying out some ID speakers, but I've never been one to just "use" a company for my own experimentation...though I really do get the idea more and more that this is just built into the business plan, so I shouldn't feel guilty.

I don't mind saving my money...I've never been disappointed with saving up large sums of "pleasure cash" and then dropping it when the time is right....whether it is a hot deal, new and improved tech developments, or just giving myself the time to learn what I really want and need.

I doubt I will ever treat the family room.

If I had more time, I'd be getting into REW and serious manual processing. But alas, this is just not that season of life for me.

If I determine the front sound stage is adequate, I cannot imagine being disappointed in adding a second sub based on various testimonies around here. So that is on the radar.

Question: Where do my speakers fall on the acceptability range with this type of community? I know there are all types here...and I tread lightly with this question, but are my speakers "respectable"?
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post #10 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 10:41 AM
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it's a shame you can't place your speakers further apart. That would make an immediate improvement.

What crossover setting did you change to?
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post #11 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by te1221 View Post
Possible to consider room treatments to improve what you already have?
+1

I just installed my acoustic treatments (corner bass traps, absorption on first reflection and rear wall). Cost just over $1000 from GIK (you could make yourself for less than half, but I have too many other projects on go right now). Difference is night and day. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone swapped out all my gear with stuff about 3-5 times the price. It's quite astonishing, and I don't think spending any amount of money on "gear" would have produced the same results

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post #12 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 10:46 AM
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You haven't mentioned where you live - if you are in or near a large city you might want to check out the offerings on your local Craig's List for speakers. If you post your location there are forum members here that might be able to spot a few older speakers with a great price tag. Spending a few hundred more that what you've spent on the Polks IMO won't be much of an upgrade.

You mentioned being on a limited budget - that means nothing to me - what does it mean to you? In dollars please.

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post #13 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 11:54 AM
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"Respectability"?

If disaster ensued and I somehow lost all of my existing equipment, I would be all over the Polk Monitors. They give a great sound for a reasonable amount of cash. I'd have no hesitation in using them again.

Spoiler!
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post #14 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
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What crossover setting did you change to?
120Hz
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post #15 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
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You haven't mentioned where you live - if you are in or near a large city you might want to check out the offerings on your local Craig's List for speakers. If you post your location there are forum members here that might be able to spot a few older speakers with a great price tag. Spending a few hundred more that what you've spent on the Polks IMO won't be much of an upgrade.

You mentioned being on a limited budget - that means nothing to me - what does it mean to you? In dollars please.
I'm about an hour outside of Fort Worth, Texas.

Good point on budget...I could toss about $700 plus whatever I could sell the the previously used gear toward an upgrade. What is that....about $900 net if I swapped the left, right and center only?....Say a grand MAX. As mentioned...I'm not against used or Craigslist....in fact the Polk speakers were from Craigslist...except the Center channel was purchased new later.

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post #16 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:30 PM
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I want everything to just sound tighter and distinct...more present and "alive"??? I typically use this for 90% movies/10% Music, but I will say that when the music plays in a movie, I treat it as such, if that makes sense.

If this is what you are looking for, you might want to start looking at speakers with a compression driver and maybe a wave guide, bigger woofers for mid-bass and mids, and more efficiency. There is only so much you can get out of the entry-level dome tweeters and 6 & 1/2 inch drivers in the Polks. On the higher end, there is JTR (passive), Seaton (active), and the big JBL Pro Cinema speakers (passive or active), and on the cheaper end are offerings like the ones I listed above. There are also speakers in the middle if you look around.
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post #17 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by MalevolentHamster View Post
+1

I just installed my acoustic treatments (corner bass traps, absorption on first reflection and rear wall). Cost just over $1000 from GIK (you could make yourself for less than half, but I have too many other projects on go right now). Difference is night and day. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone swapped out all my gear with stuff about 3-5 times the price. It's quite astonishing, and I don't think spending any amount of money on "gear" would have produced the same results
I can believe it. In this case...WAF currently prohibits this approach. However, I do have approval for a second sub, so we should keep that in mind.
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post #18 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:34 PM
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You might consider looking for used equipment. There is no shortage of it, and sizeable discounts are available over the retail price.

Have a look at this ad. It's no good to you since the seller wants local pickup in New York, but it serves to illustrate what is available for those on a tight budget. This guy's speakers would set you back about $1200 if you bought his centre too, and you'd have over $5000 worth of speakers.

http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/6...logan-ascents/

Spoiler!
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post #19 of 71 Old 01-12-2016, 12:37 PM
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I can believe it. In this case...WAF currently prohibits this approach. However, I do have approval for a second sub, so we should keep that in mind.
Typically WAF is the issue. for absorption, you can get wall panels printed with custom images but bass traps are a killer in the WAF dept

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post #20 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 05:12 AM - Thread Starter
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it's a shame you can't place your speakers further apart. That would make an immediate improvement.
I know...there is a piano in the way. :-) Here is a question, do some speakers overcome less than ideal placement than others when it comes to imaging and stereo separation?
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post #21 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Let me fill in another concern. When I view the rough curve copied from my Denon's Audyssey setup, I noticed that the greatest cut made was at 125hz and that was by 5db. If I get speakers stronger in mid bass, is Audyssey just going to cut it out again...possibly more aggressively? Or are there other factors at play here?

This is why I ended up raising my crossover point to 120hz....to compensate.
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post #22 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 05:32 AM
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The only problem with a 120hz cutoff is that you may be putting your subwoofer into a "localization" freq, where you will heard things coming from your sub (instead of the appearance that the LFE is coming from the room). The outlaw sub is a monster, but if your room is huge, a second sub could be helpful- but it doesn't sound like that is your biggest problem (speaker placement issues). Even if you can move your Polk M70 out a few inches, then tow in a bit, it might be helpful.
Not sure what characteristics in a speaker would make it image better if that close together...so I cannot recommend another speaker.
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post #23 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 06:04 AM - Thread Starter
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The only problem with a 120hz cutoff is that you may be putting your subwoofer into a "localization" freq, where you will heard things coming from your sub (instead of the appearance that the LFE is coming from the room). The outlaw sub is a monster, but if your room is huge, a second sub could be helpful- but it doesn't sound like that is your biggest problem (speaker placement issues). Even if you can move your Polk M70 out a few inches, then tow in a bit, it might be helpful.
Not sure what characteristics in a speaker would make it image better if that close together...so I cannot recommend another speaker.
Thanks. That makes sense. I may just reached a bit of a limit given all the restraints I have....there is no free lunch and I'm very pleased with the sound, just being a perfectionist/tinkerer/learner/consumer always driver me to look for the next step. So can I get a little forgiveness on localization with the sub being placed aligned with the front sound stage? Or would that be more just for music? It seems like the mind would not be bother much if everything is coming from basically the same place? Hope that question makes sense. I would think a sub sitting behind me crossed at 120 would be much more of an issue...probably unbearable.
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post #24 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 10:18 AM
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What am I looking for? I wish I knew exactly. I'm a slow learner when it comes to identifying what is "not quite right" in what I hear and what the reason for this is. I THINK it is that the Polks are just so laid back. I want everything to just sound tighter and distinct...more present and "alive"??? I typically use this for 90% movies/10% Music, but I will say that when the music plays in a movie, I treat it as such, if that makes sense. I'm somewhat crippled placement-wise, as it is a family room with other furniture to work around...so a possible draw back is that my stereo imaging field is narrow...Polk tower on each side hugged up to a 50 inch plasma. So...I don't know if picking the proper left/rights might widen the image??? Up until a recent tweak, I was VERY disappointed with the weak midbass of the Polks...but someone suggested I try a much higher crossover setting to let the sub take it and I have to say, I'm much happier....though now I just wonder why on earth I have big ole towers if I'm cutting off all the low end. I'm waiting to give that tweak some time (actually just made the adjustment last night) to decide if it fully satisfies. I have little complaints at the dialogue, which is sounds like a tough battleground for several folks.

Going around to stores and listening is not easy for me. I live over an hour from any decent stores (rural). I also don't trust what I hear in another room...been around long enough to know how different things sound in different rooms. I've definitely thought more and more about trying out some ID speakers, but I've never been one to just "use" a company for my own experimentation...though I really do get the idea more and more that this is just built into the business plan, so I shouldn't feel guilty.

Question: Where do my speakers fall on the acceptability range with this type of community? I know there are all types here...and I tread lightly with this question, but are my speakers "respectable"?
1. Your Outlaw sub should be plenty adequate, unless you are a total basshead and want to get that "kick in the chest" sensation while watching parts of action movies.

2. Don't worry about what is or isn't "respectable"---the only thing that matters is if your speakers are providing YOUR ears with the results you want.

3. It wouldn't take much money to get a big sound improvement over your Polk Monitor speakers, $1K for the front 3 is ample in fact since you are doing 90% HT not music.

4. The center speaker does 70-80% of the HT output; therefore upgrading the center is the obvious place to start. It's entirely possible that with a different center speaker (and I know of one that costs as little as $130, and another one for $300) you will actually feel ok with keeping your Polk towers, saving you the trouble of reselling them.
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post #25 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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The center speaker does 70-80% of the HT output; therefore upgrading the center is the obvious place to start. It's entirely possible that with a different center speaker (and I know of one that costs as little as $130, and another one for $300) you will actually feel ok with keeping your Polk towers, saving you the trouble of reselling them.
Well give me the goods! What center speakers are you referring to?
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post #26 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Gracepreacher View Post
Well give me the goods! What center speakers are you referring to?
Ok.

The $300 center speaker (which you could augment later with identical matching L/Rs as many people on here will doubtless advocate):
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages...c/cmt340c.html

The $130 center speaker (which many people will dismiss out of hand due to its price, brand, and appearance):
http://www.amazon.com/review/R1DYBWM...cm_cr_rdp_perm
http://www.amazon.com/BIC-America-FH.../dp/B0015A8Y3E

Am currently using one of these as a center for HT, and it throws a huge soundstage and provides excellent detail/clarity due to the horn tweeters. (For music I go back to 2.0 with my Wharfedale speakers since I prefer a warmer, more laid back sound with the genres I listen to.) It's about 90% as good as the Ascend 340 center I had many years ago, which cost over three times as much. They have high sensitivity so will be very easy to drive, the sealed design and less than 8" depth (I think it's 7") makes placement a breeze, and the multi-directional (meaning you can position it horizontally or vertically) horn tweeter is rolled off so that you don't get the screeching piercing treble that Klipsch horn tweeters are infamous for, but you do get all the nice voice clarity and huge soundstage of the horn technology. Solid build quality, although plain looks. They can be placed horizontally or vertically, so in the future you could add 2 more for your L/R if desired.

The nice thing about the BIC is that you can order them shipped free site to store so that you'll have the best no-hassle refund policy around in case you don't like them...basically, a no-risk proposition:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/BIC-FH6-LC...eaker/10298559
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post #27 of 71 Old 01-15-2016, 01:43 PM
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You are running a 120hz crossover with Monitor 70's and a CS2 center?

What receiver do you have? Audyssey can some times screw up.

I would at lease bring the crossover down to 80hz and see how it sounds to your ears. Heck try running the Monitor 70's in large while you are at it.

Polks aren't really known for their laid back sound, usually people consider them bright.
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post #28 of 71 Old 01-17-2016, 02:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by crazyrob425 View Post
You are running a 120hz crossover with Monitor 70's and a CS2 center?

What receiver do you have? Audyssey can some times screw up.

I would at lease bring the crossover down to 80hz and see how it sounds to your ears. Heck try running the Monitor 70's in large while you are at it.

Polks aren't really known for their laid back sound, usually people consider them bright.
I ran them at 60Hz for a long time...but lately I've felt I was missing clarity in the upper bass. Another forum member suggested trying a higher crossover setting, which I did about a week ago. By getting the upper bass into the "sub level" control, I can overcome the flat Audyssey curve in that frequency range. My Outlaw sub is every bit as clear if not clearer than my Polks at that range to my ears. I know it is a workaround, which is why I'm trying to figure out the next move. Something is not satisfying...is the Polks themselves? Do the Polks just need more power? "Laid back" is probably the wrong word...I'm just now trying to put language to what I'm hearing...I just know that things are as clear and distinct as they should be...like everything just runs together??? Transients aren't tight enough? I dunno. I just know my ears are growing out of them and it's a little frustrating that it is not more obvious what should be done next! So far people have suggested the gamut:

1) Better speakers (Not opposed)
2) A second sub (Not opposed, though placement is not flexible)
3) Room treatment (WAF - No)
4) More power to left/rights (Not opposed)
5) Different center channel (Not convinced it addresses the issue, but if I changed left and right, I'd change the center. While I understand this is the most important speaker, I've never once complained about the dialogue (though I'm sure there is room for improvement, I just haven't "discovered" this yet), so this suggestion doesn't make sense to me...is this what psychologists call "transference"?)
6) Different AVR that let's EQ still be adjusted after auto setup (I refuse to lose Audyssey's Dynamic EQ feature because I listen so much at lower levels and I love how it corrects the curve when I do.)
7) REW and a PEQ (I just don't have time at this stage in life)

That leaves 1, 2, 4 and possibly 5. But I cannot do them all on my $750-1000 budget.
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post #29 of 71 Old 01-17-2016, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracepreacher View Post
Something is not satisfying...is the Polks themselves? Do the Polks just need more power? "Laid back" is probably the wrong word...I'm just now trying to put language to what I'm hearing...I just know that things are as clear and distinct as they should be...like everything just runs together??? Transients aren't tight enough? I dunno. I just know my ears are growing out of them and it's a little frustrating that it is not more obvious what should be done next! So far people have suggested the gamut:

1) Better speakers (Not opposed)
2) A second sub (Not opposed, though placement is not flexible)
3) Room treatment (WAF - No)
4) More power to left/rights (Not opposed)
5) Different center channel (Not convinced it addresses the issue, but if I changed left and right, I'd change the center. While I understand this is the most important speaker, I've never once complained about the dialogue (though I'm sure there is room for improvement, I just haven't "discovered" this yet), so this suggestion doesn't make sense to me...is this what psychologists call "transference"?)
6) Different AVR that let's EQ still be adjusted after auto setup (I refuse to lose Audyssey's Dynamic EQ feature because I listen so much at lower levels and I love how it corrects the curve when I do.)
7) REW and a PEQ (I just don't have time at this stage in life)

That leaves 1, 2, 4 and possibly 5. But I cannot do them all on my $750-1000 budget.
You can definitely do 1 and 5 on that budget, though---and I strongly suspect that will take care of your dissatisfaction.

If you are feeling adventurous you can experiment with 3 of those BIC FH-6 speakers across the front for under $400, and easily return them for a full refund at your nearest Walmart if they don't satisfy. I say "adventurous" simply because these speakers are often dismissed out of hand due to their branding, low pricepoint, and BIC's horrible marketing of them.

However, if you want a "safer" choice with a widely praised (by both pro reviewers and forumites), I'd do 3 x Ascend CMT-340SEs across your front:
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages...m/cmt340m.html

Immaculate detail, neutrality and accuracy, they do both music and HT well, and will be a big step up from the Polks. About $834 shipped for LCR, add $180 if you want the OEM pedestal stands for a tower look. Do a forum search for all the feedback on them...I don't think I've ever come across anybody who didn't like them. Their only slight "con" is the plain black MDF cabinets, if that matters to you.

Another option, not quite as well known as Ascend, but with much prettier cabinets:
http://emptek.com/r55ti.php
http://emptek.com/r56ci.php
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post #30 of 71 Old 01-17-2016, 05:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
You can definitely do 1 and 5 on that budget, though---and I strongly suspect that will take care of your dissatisfaction.

If you are feeling adventurous you can experiment with 3 of those BIC FH-6 speakers across the front for under $400, and easily return them for a full refund at your nearest Walmart if they don't satisfy. I say "adventurous" simply because these speakers are often dismissed out of hand due to their branding, low pricepoint, and BIC's horrible marketing of them.

However, if you want a "safer" choice with a widely praised (by both pro reviewers and forumites), I'd do 3 x Ascend CMT-340SEs across your front:
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages...m/cmt340m.html

Immaculate detail, neutrality and accuracy, they do both music and HT well, and will be a big step up from the Polks. About $834 shipped for LCR, add $180 if you want the OEM pedestal stands for a tower look. Do a forum search for all the feedback on them...I don't think I've ever come across anybody who didn't like them. Their only slight "con" is the plain black MDF cabinets, if that matters to you.

Another option, not quite as well known as Ascend, but with much prettier cabinets:
http://emptek.com/r55ti.php
http://emptek.com/r56ci.php
Zorba, you have been very helpful through all of this.

Honestly, looks is the least of my concern, though I do have a wife, so there are some limits, but she is pretty reasonable, I think. I honestly prefer black ash and basic in most cases. I know that gloss piano black is all sexy, but I don't get why anyone wants something shiny in their field of view while watching video.

So you think three of those BIC's would beat my Polks? That does sound like an interesting "experiment" and learning opportunity. I'll consider it!

I have been studying up on those Ascends...I believe you mentioned them earlier in the thread. I even called and spoke with someone there Friday. If I didn't feel like they were worth the upgrade and returned them, I'd be out some pretty hefty shipping, but you are right that they get rave reviews, so it seems pretty unlikely I'd not feel the same way as the rest.

A few questions:

1) I love how the Ascend stands can be filled with sand or cat liter to be rock solid against tipping...I've got little kids, a 100 pound boxer/great dane, and these will be in the family room. Though I know you get a discount once you have the speakers...they are not inexpensive in my book. HOWEVER, what if I checked out the BICs (or any other bookshelfish speaker)...are there SOLID stand options? Or, what are the acoustic rules about attaching these things to the walls (on each side of my plasma)? If I did stands, they would sit on a wood floor, FYI.

2) I read some kind of forum thread where the designer of the Ascends was responding to a Polk Monitor 70 user that was disappointed in the CMT-340's...I cannot find the link now...but basically he mentioned somewhere in there that they true audiophile speakers and will not have that big room-filling sound like Polks will. Any idea what was meant there?

3) Is using the third CMT-340 as a center just a way to save money over their SE center, or is it actually identical anyway?

4) Do you know much about the Aperion Intimus series?

5) Those Empteks are indeed pretty, but cherry wouldn't really match our other stuff, and if I tried to get a matching center at the same time it is over budget.

Are we assuming through most of this that I could stick with the Monitor 30's in the back for some time?
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