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Living Room 5.1 for $600 - Suggestions?

post #1 of 80
Thread Starter 
I'm a noob to this and am requesting your help with speaker selection. My goal is to get a strong 3.1 (if not 5.1) system put together, that would work for the living space we will be using it in, fit within the furniture we will be locating the equipment in, and be under $600.

Main uses will be "home theater" for movies, regular TV watching, music streaming (FLAC from my collection of CDs on a NAS, and HQ stream from Spotify).

I've been eying the Energy Take Classic 5.1 (great reviews on CNET and Amazon user feedback) but because of space/fit constraints with center speaker, I am thinking the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 as a guaranteed fit.

I don't know enough to pick and choose individual speakers, but think that might be better bang for buck. At this time I cannot do a DIY solution.

Here are some factors I must work with...

Living Room and Dining Room:

- They are really one big rectangular space. However, the LR has a peaked ceiling, rising from the DR, peaking along the center of the LR, and declining to the wall opposite the DR.
- Living Room is 16x21 feet, viewing/seating area 10x12 feet within this space, with large windows on long wall opposite TV
- Dining Room is 10x10 feet, area is to right of TV

TV: Panasonic TC-P42ST30
AVR: Yamaha RX-V871 - in case you need to know power output
Location of Equipment: Pottery Barn Printer's Media Center

L&R Front Speakers:

Option 1) Ideally, would like to place speakers beside TV within the media hutch, which relegates to maximum width of the speakers to 8 inches ((62.5 interior width - 42.25 for TV - 4 inches for clearance to the sides)/2 speakers). Height can be up to 29 inches. Also, 11 inches depth would be ideal for sitting flush with the edge of the hutch, however, might be able to manage up to 13 inches (wife would prefer not).

Option 2) Alternatively, if placed on the lowest part of bookcase, for aesthetics (per wife) cannot stand upright - longest side up, so taller speakers would be placed on their side. Their maximum height (when normally oriented) would have to be maximum 12.5 inches (14.5 inches wide interior space - 2 inches for clearance on the sides), to fit the interior width of the bookcase. At 11 inches depth, speaker would be flush with the front of the bookcase unit.

Center Speaker:

Option 1) In front of the TV cannot be more than 3 or 4 inches tall and max 5 inches deep. TV (with stand) does not provide for much clearance for bottom front of TV maybe 3 or 4 inches (eyeballing, 2 to 3 inch bezel and 1.25 inch for stand), without interfering with the TV image, and no more than 5 inches (allowing for clearance front and back) depth.

Option 2) No Go...The media hutch has doors at top that open from bottom to top, with no mechanism to hold open. So no go.

Option 3) No Go...Wife does not want speaker on top of hutch (and would that be too far from the TV - about 14 inches higher?).

Sub-Woofer will not be a problem to place nearby.

Take Classic Dimensions: Sat: 6 7/8 x 4 1/8 x 4 1/8; Center: 4 1/8 x 10 1/4 x 4 1/8
RC-Micro Dimensions: Sat: 4.7 x 3.5 x 3.5in; Center: 3.5 x 5.9 x 3.5in

Hope this is sufficient information to zero in on what is a good solution. I look forward to your suggestions.
post #2 of 80
With that price point, I recommend keeping an eye out for good used systems on craigslist/ebay. Basically, look at what's on there every couple of days for a few months, and check on the size of each of the speakers since that appears to be of highest priority. Once you find something that works, buy it. Due to their small form factor, all qualifying systems will have compromised sound quality.
post #3 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Looneybomber View Post

With that price point, I recommend keeping an eye out for good used systems on craigslist/ebay. Basically, look at what's on there every couple of days for a few months, and check on the size of each of the speakers since that appears to be of highest priority. Once you find something that works, buy it. Due to their small form factor, all qualifying systems will have compromised sound quality.

Looneybomber, thanks for your reply.

Agree, I didn't realistically think I'd find a high end audiophile system for this budget and space constraint. That said, I am hoping for expert/knowledgeable guidance on what are the best options I should/could consider.

I did a quick look at ebay, as you suggested. I think, as a noob, with 699 entries for bookshelf speakers alone, this will be a near impossible task.

To make this manageable, what brand names and specific models (would have to have sold in sufficient volumes to be reasonably available) should I be looking for, say the top three that come to your mind that would fit in this budget/space on the used market?
post #4 of 80
Boy, that really doesn't leave much room for anything except HTIB or computer speakers. You might want to buy a couple of RM6751s and small center to fit your size requirements or get a set of small speakers. The Polk RM6751 speaker set is a good deal, especially if you are allowed to set up 5.1. Not the most ideal set up, but better than nothing.

Most bookshelf speakers will be too big to fit beside your tv, without blocking a screen or shelf. How about a soundbar?
post #5 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by swolfcg View Post

Boy, that really doesn't leave much room for anything except HTIB or computer speakers. You might want to buy a couple of RM6751s and small center to fit your size requirements or get a set of small speakers. The Polk RM6751 speaker set is a good deal, especially if you are allowed to set up 5.1. Not the most ideal set up, but better than nothing.

Most bookshelf speakers will be too big to fit beside your tv, without blocking a screen or shelf. How about a soundbar?

Swolfcg, thanks for your suggestion.

The Polk RM6750 system you linked has very good feedback in Amazon, and is cheaper than the Energy ones I linked.

A soundbar could be interesting, what do you suggest?

I hear ya on budget. If I were to focus now on 3.1 setup (growing to 5.1 later) and up the budget, what would be worth considering? Or, to put another way, what is the minimum budget to get out of the HTIB to the next level of quality?
post #6 of 80
I don't think your budget is the issue. I think your size requirements are the main thing. If you can go bigger, you could get a decent set up for well under $600. I just got out of my old Sony HTIB and I dd so with little money. You can spend $400 on a system or $60,000.

My recent upgrade consisted of the following:
2-Fronts (towers) Polk Monitor 60s $215
1-Center Polk CS2 $99
2-Surrounds RM6751 $65
Receiver Yamaha RX-V671 $329
Sub-Pending (still have old one)
=Total $708 w/ the Rcv which you already have. This is if you don't have size requirements.

I own two speakers from the RM6750 speaker package I linked. Purchased them from Polk direct on ebay. The speaker package is a deal if you like those satellites, b/c they sell for $43-80 each. They are solid speakers, and I would say a definite step-up from my old sony HTIB speakers, but the center and sub in that package are a little lacking.

I would check out the Soundbar subforum if you want to go in that direction. There are high and low end soundbars to choose from. If you already have a sub, then that would be a plus. Most single bars come with a connection for a sub. I think a soundbar is fine for the bedroom or secondary room, but I don't think it will make up for lack of a system in your main viewing room.

I understand your wife's need to keep the aesthetics on her $$$ media center. I know a little something about allowing a nice entertainment center corner me into stasis, in regards to upgrading or having the freedom of picking any size tv or audio.

I know she gave you a list of requirements, but you might want to keep shopping for something that will meet your needs and won't completely distract or seem ugly. Find something that might work and photoshop it into a pic with your center/tv. That might help. You might also want to check out installing speakers in the ceiling and walls if you own your home.
post #7 of 80
Klipsch here. http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Klipsch+...&skuId=9388833


Also these here.
http://www.crutchfield.com/p_107TL25...50.html?tp=184

Your going to have to make space this here is small as you can go. Tell me what you think.
post #8 of 80
Do you already have a sub? If not, if I were you I would buy two good satellites or small bookshelves for the front, and a good center and sub individually. Most of the HTIB sets don't come with a decent center or sub, which are one of the most important items in a system. Personally I wouldn't spend $600 on a HTIB, when you can buy better quality speakers separately.

There are also Soundbar packages with a 3.1 and 5.1 set-ups. I think you will get a lot more info on what you are looking for from the HTIB and Soundbar subforum, than here.
post #9 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by swolfcg View Post

Do you already have a sub? If not, if I were you I would buy two good satellites or small bookshelves for the front, and a good center and sub individually...Personally I wouldn't spend $600 on a HTIB, when you can buy better quality speakers separately.

Swolfcg, thanks.

No sub yet. I like your strategy re: sub and center, and think I'll approach it that way.

I think the issue is that most folks, like myself, find it is easier to pull some package off the shelf vs researching individual speakers, which requires a fair learning curve.

Perhaps with these forums, I can work my way through to a solution, as I do prefer to optimize what I can get for my budget. If I can meet my needs/wants with the right setup, I'll even bump my budget.
post #10 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan00 View Post

Klipsch here. http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Klipsch+...&skuId=9388833


Also these here.
http://www.crutchfield.com/p_107TL25...50.html?tp=184

Your going to have to make space this here is small as you can go. Tell me what you think.

Ryan00, thanks. Those Blackstones look nice too, for a Living Room.

If I use the approach swolfcg suggests, a pair of satellites with separate sub and center, do you have any suggestions?
post #11 of 80
post #12 of 80
Energy RC micro 5.0 set $199 w/ coupon code.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16882269027
post #13 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by joshtee View Post

Energy RC micro 5.0 set $199 w/ coupon code.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16882269027

good call! go with this for sure!
post #14 of 80
Attach that with a bic sub and youre good to go
post #15 of 80
If it were me I'd do this a bit at a time and do it right rather than just throwing cheap satellites at it. Grab two Infinity Primus P163 bookshelves while on sale and use them as the L&R fronts. And grab an Elemental Designs A2-300 subwoofer. Later when you have more money look for sales on a PC251 center and two P153 bookshelves for use as surrounds. That would be a kick butt first real system. One thing to note is if you have downstairs neighbors you'll want to put an isolation pad under the subwoofer.
post #16 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by sholling View Post

If it were me I'd do this a bit at a time and do it right rather than just throwing cheap satellites at it. Grab two Infinity Primus P163 bookshelves while on sale and use them as the L&R fronts. And grab an Elemental Designs A2-300 subwoofer. Later when you have more money look for sales on a PC251 center and two P153 bookshelves for use as surrounds. That would be a kick butt first real system. One thing to note is if you have downstairs neighbors you'll want to put an isolation pad under the subwoofer.

does not fit his criteria
post #17 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by wowyahoo View Post

does not fit his criteria

Is decent sound part of the criteria? Either way the OP is free to take or ignore my advice.
post #18 of 80
nonetheless, size does matter. Just ask his wife
post #19 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by pokekevin View Post

Attach that with a bic sub and youre good to go

Since the Micros have a lower end cut off of 150hz, better to get a sub with a strong, more detailed mid bass. With those speakers, it would be worth investing the extra money in the Emotiva Ultra 12 that is on clearance for $329.
post #20 of 80
Thread Starter 
Great feedback all, thanks!

To address some of the comments/recommendations...

Yes, quality is an objective, but I do have some constraints on size, because of having to fit into an existing media center. I will have 8, possibly stretch to 9, inches by each side of the plasma TV. So, for example, I may be able to go with the Infinity Primus P163s, the Energy Micros, and even Energy CB-20s suggested.

I think my narrowest constraint is for the center speaker. I've not been able to measure (TV not acquired yet, and stores don't have it on stand), but eyeballing it and the spec sheets, it seems to be about max of 4 inches tall. That would rule out the Infinity Primus PC251.

Maybe a naive question, but for listening 8 to 10 feet away, and with bookshelfs near each side of the TV, do I really need a center bigger than 4 inches tall?

Sub will sit on a concrete floor (no basement here), so will not need isolation pad, correct?

I take it that because of the size of bookshelf speakers, I am better off with subs that reach into the 200Hz frequency, does this capture the suggestion?

The BIC and Emotiva subs seem to fall into this range, while scanning the Elemental Designs subs, they seem to top out at 100Hz (at the lower $ price point).
post #21 of 80
The energy micro's need a sub that goes up to 160 hz

Real bookshelf speakers can get away with a sub that goes to 100hz so tell us the speakers you are getting first
post #22 of 80
I think we need pictures of this hutch that you're trying to squeeze this stuff into.

It may behoove you to put your center below the TV on a stand so you can get a matching L/C/R set with a bigger center in the mix. The center is quite crucial to optimal vocal reproduction.
post #23 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hitchman View Post

I think we need pictures of this hutch that you're trying to squeeze this stuff into.

Dan, thanks!

Here is the link to the Pottery Barn media center we have. The top half is identical configuration to that shown.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hitchman View Post

It may behoove you to put your center below the TV on a stand so you can get a matching L/C/R set with a bigger center in the mix. The center is quite crucial to optimal vocal reproduction.

Not sure I can place a stand with a speaker in front of the media center though (wife won't let me turn this into a man cave ).

With maybe 4 inches to play with in front of the TV, with its own stand, I am thinking of a smaller center. Based on suggestions and some I have so far found that meet that size, or nearly so, are:
  • Polk RM7 or RM8
  • Polk Blackstone TL1 or TL2
  • Energy V-Mini-C
  • Bic DV32CLR
  • Other Suggestions?
Alternatively, I might be able to get away with placing the center at the top of the hutch. I'm not sure how that impacts the effectiveness of a center speaker. Does that defeat the purpose, being so high from the listening plane (to give you an idea visually, our heads are about center of the bottom two book shelves on the sides of the hutchpic1 hutchpic2) and above the TV by 13 inches?
post #24 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyrob425 View Post

The energy micro's need a sub that goes up to 160 hz

Real bookshelf speakers can get away with a sub that goes to 100hz so tell us the speakers you are getting first

Crazyrob425, thanks will do.
post #25 of 80
Yikes that space allowed for a center channel imo does not permit the use of a *good* center channel. The only ones that will fit will be the type with dinky three or four inch "woofers" which to me almost always sound thin and weak. And your viewing area is not exactly small, further adding to this problem.

In your case I would run your system in the so-callled phantom center mode. This means choosing "no center" in your receiver's speaker set-up menu. Then the center signal will be redirected to the front left & right speakers. The main disadvantage to this is that anyone sitting far off to the side of the left or right speakers will not hear sounds emanating from the center of the TV image like those seated in front of the TV, that is as long as the TV is situated in between and at least roughly level with the screen.

For me, at least with the type of movies I watch most of the time which means sci-fi and action oriented types, a "theater" system means that *surround* effects can be reproduced. So as long as the surround speakers could be located properly, for me I would trade off the center channel for the surround speakers if I had to choose between the two.

I do not personally like tiny sats for HT or especially, for music oriented systems. One 5" woofer per speaker is my absolute minimum, with eight inches or dual 6.5 inch woofers being my favorite since I beleive they can be crossed over at the THX standard of 80Hz without strain. but I mostly like them because they just sound better to me because even at 80Hz there is still a lot of bass energy located in that frequency region and if the speaker cannot reproduce it well, imo the system will not sound balanced especially with m usic. Btw I think a single 6.5" or dual five inch speaker is a good choice too, for smaller rooms.

Broken record time again - for more budget oriented systems, I like to recommend the (now) discontinued but probably still in stock at many stores, Insignia NS-B2111. This is a very well reviewed 2-way with a coaxial driver consisting of a 6.5" woofer and soft-dome tweeter. Nice and warm sounding, the direct opposite of the very bright to me Polks sold there too, but the Insignia is relatively bulky and so does not have a high WAF.
post #26 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transplanted99 View Post

Alternatively, I might be able to get away with placing the center at the top of the hutch. I'm not sure how that impacts the effectiveness of a center speaker. Does that defeat the purpose, being so high from the listening plane (to give you an idea visually, our heads are about center of the bottom two book shelves on the sides of the hutchpic1 hutchpic2) and above the TV by 13 inches?

What about seeing if you can remove that door for that cabinet immediately above the TV without it looking hideous? Take the hinges off and color in where they were if the wood is bare. Perhaps a center would fit in there? Could look purposely built for it
post #27 of 80
Thanks for the hutch pic! It really helps.

I'd say put the center on the top shelf and angle it down towards the seating location. Make sure the front of the speaker is flush with the edge of the shelf. You'll end up with a better, larger center that way. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Can you possibly get your wife to allow you to place the Left/Right speakers to the sides of this thing and perhaps placed with the face of the speakers just a little bit forward of flush with the sides of it?

Do her a favor, do something on the honey-do list, buy her a steak dinner. For the sake of sound quality you want to keep those speakers from being put on a shelf inside the hutch which will be a detriment to whatever you buy. They just won't sound very good. Get some decent looking speakers and they'll look like furniture that will compliment the hutch.
post #28 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transplanted99 View Post

[*]Other Suggestions?

Martin Logan Motion 2 or 4 will fit on the sides and the Motion 6 is about the right size for the center.

http://www.martinlogan.com/motionSeries/specs.php

Might be out of budget currently for 5.1.

And with the L/R speakers that close together you don't really need a center.

Gene
post #29 of 80
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all your feedback so far. I've narrowed down my picks, following your suggestions here and in other AVS threads, and other online reviews. I would like your feedback on the following, regarding overall sound quality and for compatibility across the types.

Front L&R:

I researched for size fit, >5 in woofer, budget. Prices are the best I found on internet within the past week for a brand new pair. I looked at 53 speakers. I certainly could have put another six or so on this list, but I want to make this simpler and manageable...
  • Polk RTi A1, $247 Amazon
  • Audioengine A5, $325 Amazon (slightly out of budget)
  • Polk Monitor 30, $100 Amazon

Center:

Only one of 20 I looked at that keeps close to the size limitation, has a lower frequency reach (60-70Hz) and has good reviews / feedback...
  • Definitive Technology Mythos Seven, $399 Amazon (4.1 inches tall, definitely out of budget, but not many options)

Subs:

Of the 28 I looked at, I settled on these for budget fit, and best reviews / feedback...
  • Polk PSW505, $218 J&R
  • Bic F-12, $207 Sears
  • Bic V1220, $178 Amazon
  • Energy ESW-M8, $300 Newegg (this is a new add, as I saw this in the Deal forum and looked like a potential great value with this setup, but is slightly out of my budget range).
  • Bic PL200, $249 (maybe this vs PSW505, just found slickdeals entry on this one)

I look forward to hearing from you.
post #30 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transplanted99 View Post

Thanks for all your feedback so far. I've narrowed down my picks, following your suggestions here and in other AVS threads, and other online reviews. I would like your feedback on the following, regarding overall sound quality and for compatibility across the types.

Front L&R:

I researched for size fit, >5 in woofer, budget. Prices are the best I found on internet within the past week for a brand new pair. I looked at 53 speakers. I certainly could have put another six or so on this list, but I want to make this simpler and manageable...
  • Polk RTi A1, $247 Amazon
  • Audioengine A5, $325 Amazon (slightly out of budget)
  • Polk Monitor 30, $100 Amazon

Center:

Only one of 20 I looked at that keeps close to the size limitation, has a lower frequency reach (60-70Hz) and has good reviews / feedback...
  • Definitive Technology Mythos Seven, $399 Amazon (4.1 inches tall, definitely out of budget, but not many options)

Subs:

Of the 28 I looked at, I settled on these for budget fit, and best reviews / feedback...
  • Polk PSW505, $218 J&R
  • Bic F-12, $207 Sears
  • Bic V1220, $178 Amazon
  • Energy ESW-M8, $300 Newegg (this is a new add, as I saw this in the Deal forum and looked like a potential great value with this setup, but is slightly out of my budget range).

I look forward to hearing from you.

You really should have a center that is matched to you L&R.

Honestly, I don't see many options for your space requirements and budget.

I guess my comment would be to plead to put a center on top of the cabinet, aiming it down.

That should be harmless enough.
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