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Advice on a Speaker Upgrade on a Tight Budget

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hey folks, I posted a version of this over in the Klipsch thread earlier today, but I thought I'd open it up to all brands and get as many opinions as possible. Here goes:

I've got a very, very modest audio-only set-up that I'm looking to upgrade a bit with new speakers. Here's what I'm currently running:

Harmon Kardon 3485 Stereo Receiver
Crappy Sony 5-disc changer
Music Hall Audio MMF 2.2
Klipsch SB-1

I've got somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to spend, and I've had my eye on the Klipsch RB-61. Couple things I'm curious about, though: First of all, will I notice a substantial difference between the SB-1 and the RB-61? Second, how substantial is the difference between the 61 and the 51? I don't have a sub, and I'm not sure I'll be getting one any time soon, if that makes a difference. Also (and this might be a question for another forum), is there another component that would get me a larger boost in sound quality than the speakers? I listen to a lot of vinyl and I sometimes wonder if the phono pre in the HK receiver just isn't really cutting it.

I listen to mostly rock (classic, indie, some noise), with a good deal of old country/folk thrown in as well, and I split time pretty evenly between vinyl and CDs, possibly leaning more toward vinyl.

Now, I've only mentioned Klipsch so far but I'm very much open to any and all suggestions. The only caveat being that I'm not willing to buy used -- I realize this might be foolish, but I'm never comfortable buying something used when I don't know how to fix it myself.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling post -- anny advice would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 25
If you are into Klipsch - then you should enjoy the 61 - It is a step up.
However, after listening for a while - they made my ears bleed and gave
me a headache. You still may like them. For some one who really likes
music - I would reccomend the NHT Classic Two speaker. Check them
out at nhthifi.com or onecall.com
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks, sir. I will definitely look into those. More so than being into Klipsch -- they're really just all I know. And since we're talking such a low-end part of their line, I hesitate to say I really know them at all. My speakers have done just fine for me, but I'd like something more powerful and more detailed.

I guess one of the things I also worry about is just how many times I've seen it said that Klipsch seems to be better suited for movies, which is not at all something I'm looking for from them. But on the other hand, I've read that Klipsch does well with rock music, which is what I'm mostly into.

So, I don't know... I'm totally at square one, which I guess isn't a terrible place to be.
post #4 of 25
To me the Klipsch's are lacking some what in midrange resolution. They
do ok for rock. However in general, they are more movie than music.
post #5 of 25
I realize you said no used (bad past experience?), but you really are passing up tremendous value this way. I don't know a resister from a capacitor, but if I go and listen to something local and it blows me away for 1/2 - 1/3 of what I would need to spend to get something equivalent new, that just makes good buying sense. Especially if you buy from a responsible adult in a no kid, no pet, no smoke home... that's the way to go.

Good luck in your search regardless. But I had to chime in there.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

My speakers have done just fine for me, but I'd like something more powerful and more detailed
So, I don't know... I'm totally at square one, which I guess isn't a terrible place to be.

Do you have room for tower speakers?
post #7 of 25
Energy RC-30's would fit your price range. Why no sub? That's a big area for improvement.

Ron
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jephdood View Post

I realize you said no used (bad past experience?), but you really are passing up tremendous value this way. I don't know a resister from a capacitor, but if I go and listen to something local and it blows me away for 1/2 - 1/3 of what I would need to spend to get something equivalent new, that just makes good buying sense. Especially if you buy from a responsible adult in a no kid, no pet, no smoke home... that's the way to go.

Good luck in your search regardless. But I had to chime in there.

No, I'm glad you did. No real bad experience to speak of, I guess. For some reason, I just feel more comfortable being the one unpack the box with items I don't feel like a real expert in. This is certainly something I could get over, though, as I've bought lots of other used stuff in the past (watches, guitars, amps), so we'll see... maybe once I feel like I really know what I'm looking for, I'll warm to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Do you have room for tower speakers?

I've kind of been going back and forth on this -- I think I technically have the room right now, but I've also got a 7-month-old baby crawling around, so I think it's probably best for me to keep my speakers on a shelf. Stands would be better, I know, but I think I'm stuck with a shelf for now.

Do you think it's necessary to go to a tower in order to notice a substantial difference in quality?
post #9 of 25
I have to agree - a subwoofer is going to be pretty important with any bookshelf speakers. How about auditioning a pair of Polk Monitor 70 floorstanders. That would give you enough bass for most music.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldoCombs View Post

Energy RC-30's would fit your price range. Why no sub? That's a big area for improvement.

Ron

Well, I'm not sure. To be completely honest, I guess I've always just liked the simplicity of a 2-speaker set-up. Again, I could be convinced otherwise if it'll get me where I want to go. You think I'd get a bigger jump in quality by adding a sub and keeping the SB-1s?
post #11 of 25
i like klipsch for mainly movies and rock (ac/dc,metallica,crue,etc)

i have listened to the usual def tech,polk,infinity,jbl,martin logan,etc. klipsch stood out to me, i was mainly going for movies only.

recently i heard some psb image series, the t6 towers and b6 books. i did like the sound. the b6 books are in your budget.

if i had to describe them, the words clear,accurate and natural come to mind.
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

Well, I'm not sure. To be completely honest, I guess I've always just liked the simplicity of a 2-speaker set-up. Again, I could be convinced otherwise if it'll get me where I want to go. You think I'd get a bigger jump in quality by adding a sub and keeping the SB-1s?

You will get more bass - not more quality sound from the speaker.
post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sholling View Post

I have to agree - a subwoofer is going to be pretty important with any bookshelf speakers. How about auditioning a pair of Polk Monitor 70 floorstanders. That would give you enough bass for most music.

Hmm. If I can figure out a way to keep the kid off the floorstanders, or at least to make 'em fairly secure, I'd certainly consider it. Those Polks are crazy affordable. Are they generally highly regarded? How you the sound of a typical Polk speaker compare to the typical Klipsch sound we've been talking about?
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

Do you think it's necessary to go to a tower in order to notice a substantial difference in quality?

In general, for good bass a bookshelf needs a subwoofer. The
midrange and treble from a bookshelf will match a lot of towers.
Towers in general, will give you more bass and power.
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

Hmm. If I can figure out a way to keep the kid off the floorstanders, or at least to make 'em fairly secure, I'd certainly consider it. Those Polks are crazy affordable. Are they generally highly regarded? How you the sound of a typical Polk speaker compare to the typical Klipsch sound we've been talking about?

Polk will be a little easier on the ears. I prefer them over Klipsch.
For your type of music - you will most likely enjoy them.
post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Polk will be a little easier on the ears. I prefer them over Klipsch.

Thanks, Jim. I'm hoping to make my way over to a local high-end audio dealer called Audio Breakthroughs, where I'm hoping to audition pretty much everything I can find in my price range. Any other thoughts on what I should look for would be awesome.

Thanks again.
post #17 of 25
At Audio Breakthroughs - look at Definitive Studio Monitors and
PSB B6.
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
^^^
Alright, will do. Thanks a ton.
post #19 of 25
Listen to the Paradigms too. They are also highly regarded. For someone new to this, I would be surprised if you couldn't find something that you think is awesome. It looks like they carry a lot of well respected brands.
post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

Hmm. If I can figure out a way to keep the kid off the floorstanders, or at least to make 'em fairly secure, I'd certainly consider it. Those Polks are crazy affordable. Are they generally highly regarded? How you the sound of a typical Polk speaker compare to the typical Klipsch sound we've been talking about?

It's personal taste. I find Klipsch a bit harsh and fatiguing. The Polks are a heck of a bargain because they are discontinued stock and go on sale at newegg.com fairly regularly. I'd describe the Polks as very good bang for the buck. IMO a slight step up is the Infinity Primus P363. Disclaimer I've heard the old P362 but not yet heard the replacement P363. Anyway I see that there is a pair of P363 NIB on ebay that's within budget. I don't know the seller but the feedback looks good.

If you really don't want towers then you're going to want to invest in a subwoofer. Something like pair of Behringer B2030P will leave you $350 for a subwoofer.
post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post

Thanks, Jim. I'm hoping to make my way over to a local high-end audio dealer called Audio Breakthroughs, where I'm hoping to audition pretty much everything I can find in my price range. Any other thoughts on what I should look for would be awesome.

Thanks again.

Bring your own music, stuff that you know pretty well, take some notes and have fun! Just for kicks listen to some of the spendy stuff too, it's a good way to get an idea of what you like.

Ron
post #22 of 25
My Klipsch are fatigueing too. During a movie with something like a plane crash scene, my ears are left feeling like I've just experienced a plane crash...Plane crashes are hell on the ears man. Of course, you may opt for a softer version of reality.

I know your reasoning for not going used, but there is nothing to fix on speakers for the most part. For $500 you could get something in the Klipsch Heritage line and be several steps beyond those RB61's. I use Heresies for my surrounds, but hooked them up full range two channel for a bit to test them out. They are a bargain beyond bargains!
post #23 of 25
I know you were asking about speakers...but I would suggest that it is not the speakers that are creating harshness in your system so much as the CD player (and , as you suggest, the phono amp).

If I had the equipment that you have now, my first job would be to buy the best CD player I can get within my budget. In my opinion, that is where the harshness is primarily coming from, and better speakers ain't gonna make it sound any better (actually...I think the speakers you have are anything but harsh; I think they are very good speakers for their price range and will sound good IF you feed them from a better-sounding source).

In fact, the experience I had 30 years ago was that I bought a set of Polk RTA monitors, their top-of-the-line speakers at the time ($1200...major bucks then!), and my system still sounded like crap, because, it turned out, the amplifier I had at the time (a Yamaha) was just a crappy-sounding poor design. A new amplifier (a NAD 3020) made those speakers sound wonderful, but they sure sounded bad at first; nothing like they sounded in the store demo room (which shocked me until I worked out what was wrong...duhhhh). Until then I thought amplifiers all sounded pretty much the same...boy did I get educated in a hurry!

I would suggest the Cambridge Topaz CD10 or the Marantz CD-5004 CD player, which both sell for around $350. Either one will improve your sound dramatically; they use the newest low-distortion DAC chips available in this price range.

You are quite right about the phono section of the receiver being poor; they don't put more than a few dollars into them because most people don't use them.

For an affordable phonostage that will dramatically improve your vinyl sound, the excellent Musical Fidelity V-LPS is $150, and is really a steal for such a small price. I think that you can get it at Music Direct or Phono Doctor. I actually put my friend's MF up against my $2500 Audio Research phonostage in my home system and it sounded nearly as good; quite impressive!

Spend your $500 on the new CD player and phonostage and I'll bet your current speakers will sound amazingly good all of a sudden...lol.
post #24 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response, Commsysman. I have very little experience with high-quality CD players and admittedly have NO idea what kind of improvement in SQ it would offer. At this point in time, I'm not sure I'm willing to put that much money into one, though. I find myself moving more and more toward vinyl -- it's all I buy new, and I recently downsized my CD collection from around 2k to 400 or so.

That said, I'd definitely think long and hard about the phono preamp as you suggested. Will definitely look into that Musical Fidelity you suggested, but I've also been considering the one from Music Hall, just 'cause I have the turntable. I know that probably means nothing. you think the Musical Fidelity is a substantially better option?
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupelo22 View Post
Thanks for the response, Commsysman. I have very little experience with high-quality CD players and admittedly have NO idea what kind of improvement in SQ it would offer.
If you're going digital-out from the CD player to the receiver then almost no difference. On the other hand if you're using analog outputs it might make a significant difference because the DACs in older cheap CD players were pretty bad. However generally speaking you'll get by far the most bang for the buck improvement by adding a subwoofer or upgrading speakers or both. I'd get out and do some listening.
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