Wow, what a weekend. I spent all day Saturday with a friend who has more home theater knowledge than I do auditioning speakers at a local shop, thought I might share my experience for any other new people to this thread.
Quick summary: Overall budget of about $2k for receiver, DVD player, 5 speakers and sub, budget of about $1200 for speakers.
I built a reference CD with 60-90 second clips of music (easier than swapping CDs out) to listen to. I had 15 tracks total, and played through them with the Minis as well as the Titans. Here's a brief on them:
- 4 jazz clips (3 Norah Jones, which turned out to be a pretty good recording in terms of quality, and 1 Dave Brubeck recorded in mono)
- 3 hard rock clips (Megadeth! I wanted to hear if the instrument stage blended to mush or if you could still pick out individual instruments)
- 3 classical clips (Bach's Air on G String, Itzhak Perlman violin solo, drum-heavy clip from Battlestar Galactica season 2)
- 2 acoustic guitar clips (Tim Reynolds, "Stream", from Live at Luther College with Dave Matthews, and Elliott Smith)
- 4 rap/R&B/hiphop just to annoy people in the store
(DISCLAIMER: I am NOT by any means an audiophile, expert/pro/reviewer, nor do I possess a Ph.D in audio engineering, just my personal observations)
- The most neutral speakers I have listened to up to this point in my search. Did the usual Best Buy/Circuit City route listening to Boston Audio, Polks, etc, and the Minis maintained a much more neutral (with inclinations towards warm on the bass if anything) sound even with songs geared towards higher frequency vocals/instruments.
- Really great sound dispersion. Standing at different points throughout the room while listening to them, I didn't feel as though the sound was being "beamed" at me even though the Minis are, well, "mini".
- Good bass response, even from 6.5" woofers. The rap tracks had incredible feedback even without a subwoofer present.
Then ran through the Titans, and although I felt there was more of an "oomph" from the Titans on bass, I didn't feel as though they offered SUBSTANTIALLY better sound quality than the Minis for my application. However, if I change my mind later (I'm only buying 3.1 right now, other "2" come later), I can always get those big boys for the fronts!
I was pretty much sold on the Minis, and I hadn't even listened to them in surround settings! For movies, here's a sampler of what we watched:
- Lord of the Rings: Ring drop/Sauron explodes (FOTR), Battle of Pelennor Fields/Olyphant Charge (ROTK)
- Finding Nemo (Darla taps the tank)
The surround experience was where my first disappointment came, but oddly enough, it wasn't with the speakers, it was the shop we were at. We asked to listen to the Minis on the fronts with the 290 centers (ADP surrounds were in place already), and the guy wired them up and we started listening. I was amazed, how could Minis have this much range? The guy came back and "oops, I forgot to wire them up"- we had been listening to Studio floorstandings and the 390 centers
So then he hooked up the actual speakers and we relistened, and of course it was a lot different, but listening to the 290's definitely cemented that aspect for me- I'm going to go ahead and get the 290's with Minis instead of the 190's with Titans as I had thought before.
The 290's, like the Minis, offered superb clarity without sounding too shrill or cold, especially on the Pelennor Fields charge in ROTK (not too bass heavy, but the string theme playing in the background gives me chills!). Those things are pretty beastly though, I wonder how I'll be positioning this near the TV!!
Another part of my day was to listen and see what kind of sub would seem appropriate to accompany the Minis. My biggest question was if the Minis would need substantial backup from the sub to fill out the range. The sales guy seemed really keen on this Paradigm 10" sub that retails for $800 (but of course he was willing to give it to me for $500 if I purchased that day
). It was an okay sub, but I could see that if I wanted some SPL, I'd have to look elsewhere. As a result, I'm going to pinch some extra pennies and get the SVS PB10-NSD, because when Darla taps that tank, I want some plaster rearranged on my walls
Overall, the day was wonderful- almost like a baptism into the home theater world, if you will. The friend I was with is also shopping for speakers, but more along the lines of Revels and the Signature series from Paradigm, haha. Although I wish I had the budget to get something like he's getting, it was still fun just to hear my reference CD on those big honkin' speakers.
I did have a concern during the day, so any of your insights would be welcome:
The shop we were at had all the speakers hooked up to these ridiculous McIntosh amps ($3k+) and Marantz CD players ($4800+) and receivers. Will these speakers sound just miserable when I hook them up to my measly receiver? I'm looking at either an Onkyo 505 or 605. I know it will be a noticeable difference, but will the difference cause a "Jekyll/Hyde" effect on the speakers? I have about $350 budgeted for a receiver, so I don't know if there's anything I could do at all to minimize this disparity.
Thanks for reading my long post, I just feel like a kid in a candy store right now