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Upgrading speakers from the theater-in-a-box units

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Sometime in the next few weeks (in time to take advantage of Black Friday/Thursday sales), we'll be spending about $500 on new speakers. Knowing very little about what to look for, what published specs mean (or are worth looking at), or where to start, I'm hoping for some general advice, guidance, and recommendations to supplement the reading I've been doing.

Is it safe to assume that almost any investment in speakers is going to make a huge difference to the bookshelf speakers that come in the average Sony home-theater-in-a-box kitespecially ones that are between five and ten years old and were relatively budget-priced?

I said almost any investment because we actually have two rooms that are running those types of stock speakersand we can either upgrade one room for $500 (and wait a year or two to upgrade the other), or split the difference between the two.

Room 1: Music only
The parlour is about 30' x 50' (-ish). The receiver is a JVC RX-9010VBK, driving four Sony bookshelf speakers (the center channel speaker isn't being used) and the stock Sony subwoofer that came with a home theater kit (the original receiver was swapped out for the JVC). The speakers use the main/sub-room capacity of the receiver to achieve stereo sound; the sub uses the standard subwoofer out. It also has a Audiosource EQ-One II equalizer to help balance things.

The room has in-wall wiring at eye-level, so staying with bookshelf/compact speakers is strongly preferred. The subwoofer is essential to the system as it stands, but if there are speakers that will make it superfluous we'll go with four of those instead of four speakers plus a new subwoofer.


Room 2: Theater
The den is about 15' x 20'. It too relies on older theater-in-a-box speakers, and it too has an upgraded receiveran Onkyo SR-707. The receiver is capable of driving a 7.1 set up, but given the layout (couch against the rear wall) I don't think we'd get any advantage from that.

Given the centrality of music to our life, we're primarily interested in upgrading the parlour system, but if there's a huge difference between stock speakers and $250 speakers and not that much of a difference between $250 and $500, we'll consider doing both rooms.

I think that's all the relevant background er, now what?
post #2 of 22
$500 won't be enough to replace two rooms. You'll have to decide which room to go first. Newegg.com have been selling their Polk Monitor speakers on sale often for the past months. Currently, they are not on sale but I'm sure it will be on sale again soon.

The old Infinity Primus line is clearing out too but much, much harder to find. If you can find them for cheap, it could be in your price range.

I have not follow Pioneer's new speakers but from what I read, there seems to be a buzz in this forum about them. You can check out the post here and see if it's worth a look http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1278774
post #3 of 22
While I understand everyone has a budget, especially for entertainment purposes, if you want to have good quality speakers to drive your parlour room of 30'x50', you will need to spend more than $500 on 4 speakers. If you only want to get 2 speakers, then it may be possible but that is still a very large room to fill. I would say that your theater room is a good size as well and probably in the mid-sized room tier. I personally have Aperion Audio speakers and I can tell you they are fantastic speakers. They are what you call audiophile speakers at a nice online price. Check out this site for their speakers:

http://www.aperionaudio.com/catalog/...Family,90.aspx

The 4B is the one that would come in at around your price range if you wanted 4 speakers, however, you should supplement that with a subwoofer for the lows.

Aside from this, I have seen HTIB (home-theater-in-a-box) for around $500.
post #4 of 22
The new Pioneer speakers are about the best thing for $500. That doesn't leave you any room for a sub though(which is a must, especially for movies). You must of not done any research yourself if you thought you could get something for both rooms... If you have more money to spend, do it. Otherwise, save your money and find something else to spend it on.
post #5 of 22
Black Friday doesn't bring you much speaker wise. Since music seems to
be a priority - check the Pioneer B41 at www.j&r.com and try to stretch
the budget to get a better subwoofer. Go to Emotiva.com and look at the
Ultra 10 sub and read about it in the subwoofer forum here.This will not be
a killer system for a 30x50 room. However, it will be an ear and eye opener
compared to what you have.
post #6 of 22
What is your goal for music in your big 30'x50' room? Is it used for parties where you just want a little background music, or do you want to be able to go loud enough for people to be able dance?
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the insights.

Okay, I admit itI was getting a bit greedy thinking we could do both rooms.

So sticking with just the parlour, I'm optimistic that we'll be able to get good sound on a budget. It's a largeish space, but the layout of the speakers has really helpedthey are fairly evenly spaced out around the room. That is, instead of four speakers pushing sound from one wall across the entire space, there is a (roughly) SE/SW pair and a NE/NW pair (i.e., when you're closer to the south wall, you get a stereo field from the east and west). Given the distance between them there doesn't seem to be too much interferenceno matter where you are, the sound stays pretty consistent and between DSotM and Unsquare Dance, you can easily follow the sound back and forth.

As for goals, we want the sound all to ourselves (muahahaha!). No, really. We do throw the occasional shindig, but our annual bash is usually out in the gardens. Rather, we spend an inordinate amount of time in the parlourit's our morning coffee retreat, our evening wind-down space, and our weekend leisure room. There are no other electronics in the room (not even a clock) it's our space to sit, talk, play, read, and just hang out. We work from home, so we find we spend a lot of time there--and music is a constant.

I want to be able to set the volume to conversational levels but not lose any of the nuance or depth that generally leads people to turn it up. When the mood strikes, I want to be able to turn it up so that we can feel' the music and be wrapped up in it (almost like wearing headphones), but without losing integrity or making it shrill. And occasionally, I'd like to sit with a glass of scotch and have one of those old Memorex commercial experiences.

Yet in all cases I want to be able to appreciate the studio engineer's efforts, distinguish between each instrument and layer of whatever is playing, and for live recordings, be able to tell where band members were standing.

But that's all airy-fairy fluffy descriptions of wanna-wanna-wanna! I'm very grateful for the recommendations, and would like to see if over the next couple weeks of reading I can learn just enough about the technical aspects of speakers (I realize there is a vast amount more to learn over time) to choose between the reccs.

Ideally there is an FAQ or a primer out there (or several) that will guide me through the key stats, what they mean, and how they interplay/interact with each other. Something that will help me choose the right speaker for the receiver (if that variable is important), match the subwoofer as best as possible (or have stats such that the entire budget goes to speakers that will make one superfluous), and get the most out of the receiver's available settings (e.g., crossover level).
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post

Thanks for the insights.

Okay, I admit it—I was getting a bit greedy thinking we could do both rooms.

So sticking with just the parlour, I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get good sound on a budget. It’s a largeish space, but the layout of the speakers has really helped—they are fairly evenly spaced out around the room. That is, instead of four speakers pushing sound from one wall across the entire space, there is a (roughly) SE/SW pair and a NE/NW pair (i.e., when you’re closer to the south wall, you get a stereo field from the east and west). Given the distance between them there doesn’t seem to be too much interference—no matter where you are, the sound stays pretty consistent and between DSotM and Unsquare Dance, you can easily follow the sound back and forth.

As for goals, we want the sound all to ourselves (muahahaha!). No, really. We do throw the occasional shindig, but our annual bash is usually out in the gardens. Rather, we spend an inordinate amount of time in the parlour—it’s our morning coffee retreat, our evening wind-down space, and our weekend leisure room. There are no other electronics in the room (not even a clock) … it’s our space to sit, talk, play, read, and just hang out. We work from home, so we find we spend a lot of time there--and music is a constant.

I want to be able to set the volume to conversational levels but not lose any of the nuance or depth that generally leads people to turn it up. When the mood strikes, I want to be able to turn it up so that we can ‘feel’ the music and be wrapped up in it (almost like wearing headphones), but without losing integrity or making it shrill. And occasionally, I’d like to sit with a glass of scotch and have one of those old Memorex commercial experiences.

Yet in all cases I want to be able to appreciate the studio engineer’s efforts, distinguish between each instrument and layer of whatever is playing, and for live recordings, be able to tell where band members were standing.

But that’s all airy-fairy fluffy descriptions of wanna-wanna-wanna! I’m very grateful for the recommendations, and would like to see if over the next couple weeks of reading I can learn just enough about the technical aspects of speakers (I realize there is a vast amount more to learn over time) to choose between the reccs.

Ideally there is an FAQ or a primer out there (or several) that will guide me through the key stats, what they mean, and how they interplay/interact with each other. Something that will help me choose the right speaker for the receiver (if that variable is important), match the subwoofer as best as possible (or have stats such that the entire budget goes to speakers that will make one superfluous), and get the most out of the receiver’s available settings (e.g., crossover level).

It is nice to dream - however, you will still need more than $500.
Something better than your receiver and that Sony sub. Memorex
was a Fantasy. Make sure you do a lot of reading - be open minded
and learn what you can. Good Luck!
post #9 of 22
With what you just described you are going to need at least double what you are budgeting. If I had the cash for more speakers I would go with the Ascend Sierra 1's. Everything I've read on them sounds like what you just described. They are about $900 a pair, but if you have the money it's well worth it. They are an internet direct dealer and from what I've read they could be twice as expensive if they didn't cut out the middleman. I would seriously consider stepping up your budget. Look at it this way... a good speaker wont be out dated in 1,2,5 or even 10 years.... sure technology advances, but an excellent speaker is an excellent speaker and will sound awesome 20 years from now. Speakers are different then TV's, receivers, video game consoles, and about every other electronic component in that respect. IMHO.
post #10 of 22
Interesting discussion...thanks for sharing
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Sometime in the next few weeks (in time to take advantage of Black Friday/Thursday sales), we'll be spending about $500 on new speakers. Knowing very little about what to look for, what published specs mean (or are worth looking at), or where to start, I'm hoping for some general advice, guidance, and recommendations to supplement the reading I've been doing.

Is it safe to assume that almost any investment in speakers is going to make a huge difference to the bookshelf speakers that come in the average Sony home-theater-in-a-box kitespecially ones that are between five and ten years old and were relatively budget-priced?

I said almost any investment because we actually have two rooms that are running those types of stock speakersand we can either upgrade one room for $500 (and wait a year or two to upgrade the other), or split the difference between the two.

Room 1: Music only
The parlour is about 30' x 50' (-ish). The receiver is a JVC RX-9010VBK, driving four Sony bookshelf speakers (the center channel speaker isn't being used) and the stock Sony subwoofer that came with a home theater kit (the original receiver was swapped out for the JVC). The speakers use the main/sub-room capacity of the receiver to achieve stereo sound; the sub uses the standard subwoofer out. It also has a Audiosource EQ-One II equalizer to help balance things.

The room has in-wall wiring at eye-level, so staying with bookshelf/compact speakers is strongly preferred. The subwoofer is essential to the system as it stands, but if there are speakers that will make it superfluous we'll go with four of those instead of four speakers plus a new subwoofer.


Room 2: Theater
The den is about 15' x 20'. It too relies on older theater-in-a-box speakers, and it too has an upgraded receiveran Onkyo SR-707. The receiver is capable of driving a 7.1 set up, but given the layout (couch against the rear wall) I don't think we'd get any advantage from that.

Given the centrality of music to our life, we're primarily interested in upgrading the parlour system, but if there's a huge difference between stock speakers and $250 speakers and not that much of a difference between $250 and $500, we'll consider doing both rooms.

I think that's all the relevant background er, now what?
For Room 1: I would think BIC AMERICA RTR-1530 floor standers would create a larger sound stage

Room 2: Jamo S406 5.0 speaker set with Bic H100 subwoofer!
post #12 of 22
Get a pair of the Chase Home Theater Pro-10s for the large room. Your receiver will allow them to emulate a center channel. They will fill a 30' x 50' room.

Read about speakers in the Pro-10 thread. ~$700 for a pair.

The Ascend Sierra 1s are also consistently highly regarded.
post #13 of 22
Let us know what you get. I always see threads with tons of reccomendations and then the OP doesn't state what they went with. Please?
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by benclement11 View Post

Let us know what you get. I always see threads with tons of reccomendations and then the OP doesn't state what they went with. Please?

I agree!
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post

Thanks for the insights.

Okay, I admit it—I was getting a bit greedy thinking we could do both rooms.

So sticking with just the parlour, I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get good sound on a budget. It’s a largeish space, but the layout of the speakers has really helped—they are fairly evenly spaced out around the room. That is, instead of four speakers pushing sound from one wall across the entire space, there is a (roughly) SE/SW pair and a NE/NW pair (i.e., when you’re closer to the south wall, you get a stereo field from the east and west). Given the distance between them there doesn’t seem to be too much interference—no matter where you are, the sound stays pretty consistent and between DSotM and Unsquare Dance, you can easily follow the sound back and forth.

As for goals, we want the sound all to ourselves (muahahaha!). No, really. We do throw the occasional shindig, but our annual bash is usually out in the gardens. Rather, we spend an inordinate amount of time in the parlour—it’s our morning coffee retreat, our evening wind-down space, and our weekend leisure room. There are no other electronics in the room (not even a clock) … it’s our space to sit, talk, play, read, and just hang out. We work from home, so we find we spend a lot of time there--and music is a constant.

I want to be able to set the volume to conversational levels but not lose any of the nuance or depth that generally leads people to turn it up. When the mood strikes, I want to be able to turn it up so that we can ‘feel’ the music and be wrapped up in it (almost like wearing headphones), but without losing integrity or making it shrill. And occasionally, I’d like to sit with a glass of scotch and have one of those old Memorex commercial experiences.

Yet in all cases I want to be able to appreciate the studio engineer’s efforts, distinguish between each instrument and layer of whatever is playing, and for live recordings, be able to tell where band members were standing.

But that’s all airy-fairy fluffy descriptions of wanna-wanna-wanna! I’m very grateful for the recommendations, and would like to see if over the next couple weeks of reading I can learn just enough about the technical aspects of speakers (I realize there is a vast amount more to learn over time) to choose between the reccs.

Ideally there is an FAQ or a primer out there (or several) that will guide me through the key stats, what they mean, and how they interplay/interact with each other. Something that will help me choose the right speaker for the receiver (if that variable is important), match the subwoofer as best as possible (or have stats such that the entire budget goes to speakers that will make one superfluous), and get the most out of the receiver’s available settings (e.g., crossover level).

Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

It is nice to dream - however, you will still need more than $500.
Something better than your receiver and that Sony sub. Memorex
was a Fantasy. Make sure you do a lot of reading - be open minded
and learn what you can. Good Luck!

I really hate audio equipment snobs so I am not intending to be one but....
I agree that you just can't get the results you say you want for $500.
Everyone's idea of the sound you described is different but I think you are looking at $500 per speaker at a minimum to even get close to that and I am not really all that confident it can be done for $500 per speaker.
Having said that... maybe you are pretty well satisified with what you currently have and just want something a little better. If that is the case there is certainly nothing wrong with that and there are usually some very good deals to be had on several of the entry level speakers.

Where are you located ?
If you are near Dallas a trip to Modia Home Theater, Starpower, and Ed Kellum & Son is in order... that will at least introduce you to what music is capable of sounding like.
If the only place you have to go is Best Buy they should have Veinna Acoustic, Energy, and Definitive Technology for you to listen to and those are pretty good speakers in their own right.
Lots of people here like the internet direct speakers but I have never heard any of them so I have no opinion on them at all.
Oh yeah if you are near a Fry's they have started carrying KEF which is a pretty good sounding speaker plus they will have lots of Polk speakers if that is your cup of tea.

If you will go out and listen to speakers that will give you an idea of what you get for your retail dollar. Once you can name one or two speakers that you like maybe the forum members can suggest alternatives to those that may represent a better value.

Good luck and have fun with it.
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post

The room has in-wall wiring at eye-level, so staying with bookshelf/compact speakers is strongly preferred.

Certainly not bookshelves, but you might look into a pair of used Cornwalls or (ducking) LaScalas. Regarding the in-wall wiring, it can always be adjusted some....fixing drywall is not too hard.

Given the size of your room, I honestly think you need some size and I wonder if bookshelves would ever do it. (I'm not knowledgable of all bookshelve sized speakers)

I AM however, under the firm belief that a larger speaker will always fill a larger space with less effort. Downside of course is.... a larger box!
post #17 of 22
I strongly agree with the above post. You need to go bigger for that room or you're better off saving the money and keeping the setup as is for ambiance music. Given the room size and budget, I think you'd be better off going with something big, probably in the used market.

As an example, I'll use a pair of speakers I am very familiar with. A pair of Speakerlab 7s (out of the early 80s) are something I would consider for a big room with a smaller budget where loud playing was at least partially important. The earliest and best of the 7s were kit speakers that contained active 10" and 12" woofers, 13" horn mid range and a smaller horn tweeter. These speakers are 4 ohm, 91db efficient and are great for cranking it LOUD! They sound great too and will sound better than newer, "fancier" small speakers that inadequately fill the room. You need to move serious air to get good sound in a room that size and a bookshelf will not cut it. Again, this is just one example and certainly sounds a little radical based on current speaker popularity around here.

I know that this is very different than what you're imagining for the upgrade, but a drastic change in direction is what you need if you really want to go loud sometimes. I would not spend money on better bookshelves for a room of this size!
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chashint View Post
I really hate audio equipment snobs so I am not intending to be one but....
I hope that a lot of us are just trying to help - buyer's remorse is
not a fun experience. Hearing good music on a good system is nice.
As long as someone enjoys their system, that is good - Their joy
is the thing that matters.
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post
I hope that a lot of us are just trying to help - buyer's remorse is
not a fun experience. Hearing good music on a good system is nice.
As long as someone enjoys their system, that is good - Their joy
is the thing that matters.
Right, it seems like everyone is genuinely trying to help the OP with his unique circumstances and many are realizing that on the new market, it is going to be tough to adequately fill a room of that size with good sound for for his budget.
post #20 of 22
What is it about your current setup that you don't like? I'm guessing you're finding the audio quality lacking, especially when you turn the music up to moderate levels.

Honestly, you're not going to realize much improvement over what you already have at that price point. Have you ever heard a nice set of speakers? I'm not talking about speakers you can buy at big box stores (although BB Magnolia has some decent choices), I'm talking about speakers sold at audio specialty stores. If not, you owe it to yourself to hear how much difference good speakers can make.

Instead of picking up a dodgy deal on Black Friday, I suggest you seriously consider offerings from internet direct companies like Ascend and SVS. Their everyday price will buy you more speaker for the same price than any half off sale at Best Buy or the like.

For instance, you could get the new SVS SBS-02 speakers for $269/pair. That would put you around your $500 mark for four. You'll need a good subwoofer. A 10" model, which will be marginal in your space, is going to run you another $350-$500 .
post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

I hope that a lot of us are just trying to help - buyer's remorse is not a fun experience. Hearing good music on a good system is nice.
As long as someone enjoys their system, that is good - Their joy is the thing that matters.

I was only referring to myself when I used 'snob' since I was the one who blew his budget by 400%.
I agree that everyone is just trying to help.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chashint View Post

I was only referring to myself when I used 'snob' since I was the one who blew his budget by 400%.
I agree that everyone is just trying to help.

You are also trying to help. And you live East of West and West of
East also.
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