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What am I going to do with $15,000  

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
So my college career is finally over and I'm moving out of the acoustic nightmare that is my dorm room. It's finally time to seriously upgrade my home theater system (NHT Super One's and a Sherwood DD/DTS reciever). In order to do this, I've allocated $15,000 for speakers, amplification and processing and I would like to hear what the very knowledgeable readers of this forum would do with this money. This should give some idea of what I'm looking for in this system: my listening is probably 70/30 music/movies, I'd like all of the latest surround formats (Dolby II, DTS ES discrete) or a clear upgrade path to them, my music is primarily orchestral, jazz and classic rock, not using all of the money is a viable option (if you think the law of diminishing returns is seriously kicking in).

I've cooked up a few systems, but I'd like to give carte blanche to any one who has a clever setup.


[This message has been edited by mjabel (edited 05-17-2001).]
post #2 of 20
Very best bang for the buck as of right now is the Integra Research RDC-7 pre-pro (according to Stereophile Guide to Home Theater; they gave it a Platinum Editor's Award and rated it as a AAA grade product). It has THX Ultra Certification, THX EX 7.1 decoding, 8 professional studio quality 24 bit/192 kHz Apogee DAC's (low jitter clocking mechanism and they can upscale 44.1 and 48 kHz PCM to 96 kHz sampling), 24 bit ADC's, AC-3 LaserDisc demodulator, 7.1 channel analog input (fully bypassable), software upgradeability via a serial port, event trigger outputs, fully balanced professial XLR outputs for all channels (or RCA), component video switching (HDTV quality), etc. It even has FireWire compatibility. By the end of the month the unit should have a new ProLogic II and DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 and DTS-ES Matrix sofware upgrade (all in one packet) that may be downloadable from your computer via a CD-ROM they or the dealer sends you (then into the processor). $4,000 retail-- a super steal!

The new balanced Lexicon processor has only a few more features than this and costs a heck of a lot more.


Either you could go all the way and get a better amplifier or a slightly lesser one and better speakers. Tough call.

For a smokingly suave and smooth 5-channel amp with XLR balanced inputs and 200 watts Wpc @ 8 ohms, I can't think of anything better for the money than the Theta Dreadnaught. Even Widescreen Review's Richard Hardesty (a picky SOB http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif ) bought two and love them. $6,000 retail for the 5 channel model. A little later on get a 2 channel version and use it to drive the front left/rights (you can add more channels to this one if needed) and the 5 channel version for all the surrounds and front center.

Another more "reasonable" choice with high build quality and very good sound... Sherbourn's 2/600A 2 channel XLR balanced amp with 200 watts/channel, $1,250 retail (for front left/right channels); and matching 5/1500A 5 channel XLR balanced amp with 200 watts/channel, $2,000 retail (stereo sides, two center rears, and front center channels).


If you still like the NHT sound, then get upgraded Music Series speakers and the Aerial Acoustics CC3 center channel speaker one of the better center channels out there with timbre matching adjustments (for mixing with other manufacturers' speakers).

There's always the Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v.2 (3-way towers), $1900/pair retail (front), 2 pairs of Studio 60's, $1,150/pair retail (side and rear surrounds), and their newest Reference Studio center channel.

Also, the B&W CDM (if I remember the model letters correctly; can't get on their website) series (with their upgraded Nautilus style tweaters) is not half bad either.

Vandersteen boxless speakers (like the 3A Signature) are great too.

Then an SVS powered subwoofer- wonderful, tight bass for the money.



[This message has been edited by Dan Hitchman (edited 05-16-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Dan Hitchman (edited 05-16-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Dan Hitchman (edited 05-16-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Dan Hitchman (edited 05-16-2001).]
post #3 of 20
Sorry for all the edits. I had to look stuff up as I went along.

Hope this is of help. Need more info. or have questions, just drop me an e-mail. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif


post #4 of 20
According to Integra Research's website www.integraresearch.com there are 13 cities in California that carry the Integra products.


post #5 of 20
You should seriously consider to build your system around electrostatic speakers. For Music listening you probably love it or hate it. Make up your own mind. For HT I can't find anything that would be better for the buck. I nice complete Willson system wouldn't be a bad choice of course, but it would blow your budget. Check out the Martin Logan's home page. They have a lot of links to reviews which basically sums up with that electrostats and HT is definitely something that people should consider. Why not an Ascent, Theater, Scenario combination.
For the rest I would go for separates. Whatever you buy, you will probably want to replace it after a few years. Lets say you go for the Integra which is a very good machine. Even if it's possible to use the pre outs in the case you want a new front amplifier, you can't reuse the 2 channels in the Integra. If you go for separates then simply move the old 2 channel amp to the bed room, garage or whatever.

BR /// Rob
post #6 of 20

Well, I assume you are still in the Palo Alto area? Have you been around to all of the high-end stores? There are three with a few miles of Standford plus 5 more great stores throughout the Bay Area. I would start out finding the speaker you would like. There are Dyn Audio, Wilson, Thiel, Revel, JMLab, B&W, PROAC, AValon, Meridian, Martin Logan, DunLavy, Sonus Faber, and Vandersteen to name a few brands all within an hours drive. You obviously must have listen to some. I'd be curious to know what you have on your list http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif
post #7 of 20
The Integra Research RDC-7 is a pre/pro...
It doesn't have any amps in it...
Having said that...
I've seen the RDC-7, and it looked and sounded very good...
I've been thinking about picking one up..
Limited bass management would be my only nitpick at this point...
Also looked at a Casanova... about the same price range...Thats real nice too....
The Casanova or Casablanca probably has the best bass management available...if that is important to you...
and of course...
I know someone will mention the... ( drum roll )
Tag Mclaren AV32R...about the same price range as the Casanova, and the RDC-7
Such decisions.. Isn't this a great hobby ?
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
First I would like to thank Dan for his well thought out and impressive recommendation, but more on that later. Secondly, Fireball, I've been to three I think you're talking about (Sound Perfection, San Francisco Stereo and The Audible Difference) and I've listened to some setups at each store. When I last demoed equipment I thought all I was going to do was upgrade my main speakers (a successful job hunt has allowed me to expand my budget a bit), so I just listened to stereo pairs in the $1000 to $2000 price range. I heard the Vandersteen 2ce signatures, the Thiel CS1.5, the Magnepan 1.6QR, the B&W CDM1NT and N805, Paradigm Studio 100 v2 and the Dynaudio Contour 1.1. Just to give a snap shot, I was very impressed by the Magnepan, the Dynaudio and the N805 and I was less than impressed by the Thiel and the CDM1NT.

Now back to Dan's system and the rest of the equipment I have been considering. I'm just going to give a list of the different models and brief thought on each one.

Integra RDC-7 - Yeah Dan, you're right on with this one. Almost everything you could want at a very reasonable price. The folks at Nuts About Hi Fi in Washington (my home state) were actually pushing this unit pretty hard when I visited there a while ago. The only thing I don't like is how long it seems to have taken to bring their upgrades to the public, but if they are right around the corner this might be a moot point.

Tag McLaren AV32R - Highly thought of on this forum and in the press. The company seems to be Johnny on the spot with its upgrades and has a very clear upgrade path. However, it lacks both component video switching and a 5.1 input.

Meridian 568 - I've always wanted Meridian gear (hearing the digital theater setup at The Audible Difference doesn't exactly help this). This unit tops Stereophile's list and might just be the best sounding processor out there. Like the Tag though, it lacks component video switching, a 5.1 input and they haven't said anything about DTSES Discrete.

Lexicon MC-12 - It has everything, but at $9000 it doesn't leave much room in my budget.

Outlaw 950 - Who knows? Won't be out for a while, but it will be cheap ($900).

Sherbourn 5/1500A - Good price ($2000), good power and balanced inputs.

Bryston 9B-THX - Stereophile (not SGHT) Class A rated. Not the biggest on power, but it is supposed to sound excellent ($3800).

Theta Dreadnought - Universally well liked, but at $6000 might be too much money to spend on the amp.

Earthquake Cinenova Grande - Gobs of power and a good deal for $4000, but at something like 140 lbs it's not something I would want to have to move too often.

Denon AVR-5800 - At only $2500 from online retailers it has good sound, almost all the features I want and it would leave a ton of money for speakers. I'm not saying this is my favorite option, but it is an interesting one.
I'll get to the speakers when I have some more time later.

[This message has been edited by mjabel (edited 05-16-2001).]
post #9 of 20
Just to be different, I would start with the speakers. And for maximum bang for buck, I would buy used.

For around $5K for mains, you could get some seriously good ones - Genesis V, Wilson WATT + subs, Martin-Logan CLS + subs, Aerial 10T are my faves but there are more. Check www.audiogon.com.

Add another $3K for surrounds. Then buy one of the new SVS Ultra for a sub, $1200.

Then a Sunfire Signature for your main amp (1500) and a Cinema Grand for the others ($1500).

And then I'd wait to see what happens with digital transmission of the new formats. Buy a B&K Ref 30 ($1700) in the meantime.

Nice as the amps and prepros above are, great speakers will make a much greater difference, IMHO.

You should be able to get a system that would retail for $30K or so for under $15K

post #10 of 20
Hello mjabel,

I must second Steve's advice - strongly consider buying used, from audiogon.com or elsewhere, as it is the best way to stretch your money. I bought a EAD PM 2000 amp from someone on that site and paid just over 50% retail for a 6 month old unit with absolutely no problems.

Good luck with your setup,

post #11 of 20
One problem with the B&K Reference 30 is that I've read a few posts from customers calling B&K's service department and it looks very tentative on the ProLogic II update and even more iffy on the DTS-ES package upgrade (Discrete, Matrix, and Neo:6). Doesn't look "good" on that front.

I don't see any problem with getting the Integra RDC-7 pre-pro IMHO. They may have missed a couple months in finishing the update, but they are adding both features instead of separating them like they were first going to do. As it is, manufacturers (for the most part) are just coming out with PL II products anyway. Bass cross-overs might just be handled in another software upgrade. They have a very flexible engine.

As for the Outlaw, the ONLY thing that makes me hesitant is that there is no firm info. on whether or not they'll have flashable firmware for software updates. I'm sure for the money, they'll be pretty good for the rest (and they will have DTS-ES and PL II). If you're going to be spending a small fortune, however, I'd get as much upgradeability as possible for the least amount of money spent. That seems to fit the Integra to a tee.

The Sherbourn amps (a 5 channel and a two channel), to me, look like a fairly no-brainer. And they do match up with the Integra's pro-grade XLR balanced jacks (something the Outlaw's lack). That helps with the noise floor (the Stereophile review did mention that the sound through the balanced jacks were that much better on the Integra-- sounds good to me), ground loop hums, and the ability to have longer interconnects and shorter speaker wire lengths (less interference and a bigger voltage through the interconnects). If they're anywhere near the quality of the ATI amp I have, then you should have them for quite some time. Every review I've come across says they didn't skimp.

But, it's your money in the end. Can I have some? http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif



[This message has been edited by Dan Hitchman (edited 05-16-2001).]
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
First off I'd like to again express my thanks for the help everyone is giving, it's nice to have some people to bounce my ideas off of.

So the speakers I was currently considering are a Vandersteen system based on the 3A's, an Aerial 7B/CC3B system, a B&W Nautilus system N804/N805/HTM2, the Paradigm Studio 100/Center/60 system, a Dynaudio Contour setup or the Revel Performa line. I'm pretty much sold on using the SVS subwoofers and I was planning on using my NHT Super One's for the surround back channel or for all the surround duties at least until I feel that the new formats warrant the investment in new speakers.

To respond to a few of the other replies;

Buying used is definitely a good idea, but I would be tentative about buying my speakers used if I couldn't get a look at them before hand. As I will be doing most of my purchasing in New Orleans (I'm getting started early so I can tap the resources of the Bay Area's dealers) when I settle into my new job, the used market there might not have what I want. I do like the idea though of sinking a lot of money into the front speakers. The reason I was starting with the electronics is that I believe the speakers are the most important part of the chain and I would want to have all of my other components in place so I could find the best speakers for my setup.

As you've probably guessed this is going into a moderate sized apartment. As I don't have a place picked out yet lets just assume its the living room of you're average 700 sqft one bedroom apartment. As to my listening habits, I'm about 70/30 music to movies. To give you an idea of what music I want to sound good, I like big orchestral music (Mahler, Holst, Strauss, Sibelius), wind ensembles (like the Reference Recordings of the Dallas Wind Symphony), a variety of jazz (Davis, Coltrane, Redmond, Parker, etc) and some rock (Dire Straits, Floyd, U2). My movie preferences are all over the board.

[This message has been edited by mjabel (edited 05-16-2001).]

[This message has been edited by mjabel (edited 05-16-2001).]
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
If anyone is interested this is the current Onkyo company line on their upgrades. I emailed them last night and the responded this afternoon, pretty impressive turn around.
We are in the final stages of the upgrade at this time. The upgrade has been delayed due to that fact that we have included Dolby Pro Logic II. We have also decided to make this upgrade available for the consumer to install from a laptop or home computer . We will be posting information on
the website this month. The upgrade will consist of a CD-ROM and RS-232 cable.
post #14 of 20
If you have considered the Aerial 10T or B&W Nautilus 802s, there a pair of each on Audiogon right now. The 10ts are 3400 and the 802s are 5600....both rosewood color. The sellers are in San Jose and the Fremont area so you can see them in person.
post #15 of 20

Interesting as my first inclination was for you to hold onto a pair of Super Ones for surround duty. My choice would be the Aerial 7B and CC-3B with a pair of SVS subwoofers, or wait for the new SS series of subs from SVS (which is expected to compete with the Aerial subwoofer). Considering you will be in an appartment, I would probably wait to get a single SS sub. You then have the ability to get a second at a later time when you have a more suitable space or tolerant neighboors http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif.

My vote for processors would likely go to TAG MacLaren and Theta. Amplification could then be covered with anything from Cinepro, Bryston or Theta. That is what I would put on my short list. Oh, and be sure to include the price of a Pronto/RC-5000i or RTI Theater Touch remote control.

Mark Seaton

[This message has been edited by Mark Seaton (edited 05-16-2001).]
post #16 of 20
Save some money, Spend about 5K to 6K. Put the rest in some solid stocks(financial companies) or CDs. I won't tell you which equipment to buy but there are a lot of companies that will be coming out with products that decode all formats. In a few years, the amount that you saved will most likely have increased by a significant amount. This will amount to getting your equipment for "free".
My father did this getting a Camry instead of Lexus, in a few years(3 or 4), the amount he invested grew enough to basically pay completely for the Camry.

What in the Wide Wide world of Sports is goin' on here
post #17 of 20
shelly40, have you ever thought about, if you read RDC-7 very fast, it's easy to believe you read DTR-9.1… not, well then I don't have another excuse. Maybe should stop browsing through threads while I'm working.

Mjabel, I believe you should plan a vacation a.s.a.p. Book a ticket to Hong Kong. Then you can do some serious shopping. Excel the old distributor of Krell is selling all their stuff. Here are some examples.

AV standard : $4200
HTS : $3000
KAV-500 : $2200
KAV-250 : $1800

BR /// Rob
post #18 of 20
Ummm.... do you know where you will be putting all these new toys yet? I would think this may have a significant impact on your decisions. Also, some of your prefferences and listening habits might be helpful in determining what might work best for you, or where the money would be most wisely spent.

Mark Seaton
post #19 of 20
Make sure you go down to Bay Area Audio in Cupertino (85/DeAnza Blvd) and listen to their Aerial speakers. They have a CC-5 center channel setup with 10t's in the front, SR3's in the back, and dual SW12 subs. I listed to this setup two weeks ago. I then promptly placed my order for a new CC-5. nuff said!
post #20 of 20
Revel Performa Speakers and used Jeff Rowland Amps will make your heart sing- give them a listen together.

The MPAA will not win this one!
Stop DVI/HDCP, PHILA and 5C- hack and mod to your heart's content!
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