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Newb needs help picking out speakers

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I am a complete newb when it comes to the world of Audio/Video systems and would greatly appreciate expert help choosing a speaker system to complement a Harman Kardon AVR 1700 Receiver.

I want to keep in between $200 to $400, obviously the cheaper I can keep the better but am willing to spend more if there is a compelling reason to do so. The living room, where the system will be placed is about 18 by 14 with high ceilings about 20 feet or a little higher.

I want to make sure the speakers or sub woofers aren't ones that I'll have to worry about the downstairs neighbors complaining but want to have the ability to have crisp clear sound that's reasonable when they're home but allows me enjoy some booming sound when they're out.

The three sets I've thought about are Polk Audio RM705, JBL Cinema 500 and JBL CS480BG. I've always been partial to Bose systems but obviously that'll cost more. I'd greatly appreciate your input in picking out a good speaker set and would be even more great full for any feedback on the receiver or tips to make my entire system that much better.

Thank you in advance!
post #2 of 37
are you looking for 5.1 HTIB stuff? or separates that you piece together over time?
post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 
Hmm assuming a HTIB comes with a receiver, no? If so then no as I already have a receiver, I am looking for a 5.1 speaker system I can hook up to the Harman Kardon AVR 1700.
Edited by theproman23 - 1/16/13 at 7:13am
post #4 of 37
There are some really funky systems that come with a receiver/player and speakers all in one package, but they are low quality and very limited in their connectivity to other equipment.

You are far better off getting a regular receiver, which you apparently already have.

All of those speaker systems you named do not strike me as very good ones. So many of the HTIB setups have 2.5-inch or 3-inch drivers in the main speakers, and that is totally stupid and inadequate.

The one that is far better than most of the others on the market is the Martin-Logan MLT-2 system.

It has 4.5-inch drivers in the front speakers (much larger than most), and a much more capable subwoofer.

You can get it for around $400 if you look around (Newegg has it for $400 now, Amazon for $375).
Edited by commsysman - 1/16/13 at 8:06am
post #5 of 37
I'm not sure your appearance considerations. All the speakers you've listed are tiny plastic HTIB type stuff. If that's what you need to fit in your decor then that's what you'll have to buy. But the tradeoff for that small size is significant especially in that price range.

You should at least consider something with more substantial woofers in the 4" plus range. What about buying a few sets of Polk Monitor 30 or 35's, could you fit those in? Two sets of those and a Polk center should be around 300 bucks and another 100 for one of their subs and you would be doing much, much better.

Bose isn't a dirty word to me, but if you think that would be an upgrade from the other items you're considering I would disagree strongly.
post #6 of 37
Two other thoughts I had.... it might not be obvious to someone just getting into home theater that those Polks go on sale in a constant rotation on newegg, so 400 bucks should buy all 5 speakers with no issues if you can wait a week or two. Or search slickdeals for polk speakers.

The Andrew Jones Pioneer speakers would also be a good way to get four GOOD bookshelfs and a center speaker for under 300 bucks leaving 100 for a subwoofer. Search amazon for andrew jones pioneer and see if that's something you would be interested in.

Best of luck.
post #7 of 37
The Energy Take Classics are $399 and get high remarks. Keep in mind they will not get super loud, but should definitely suffice for most AV newbies.

The ML-2s are fantastic, and will get louder than the Energys. Those would get my vote.
post #8 of 37
For that budget, i find it hard to do better than a polk setup for the 5 speakers. As for spending $100 on a sub, either keep your eyes on craigslist for a decent used sub to show up or save the money. $100 for a new sub will only get you one that sounds like garbage (the polk sub for example).

Polk bookshelves for front and surround speakers: $119/pair when you use the promotional code EMCNJJE34
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290268

Polk matching center channel:$109
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290273
post #9 of 37
Over at TigerDirect.com - you can get the Pioneer BS22 bookshelves and the
C22 center for around $200 > the price will reflect in the cart.
Move down the page
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/search.asp?keywords=pioneer+speakers

Then this Mordaunt Short Carnival 9 subwoofer for $169
http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/MORDCARN9CAL/MORDAUNT-SHORT-Carnival-9-10-100-Watt-Powered-Subwoofer-Calvados/1.html

Since you live in an apartment - this would be a nice system for you

You can save up for some cheap surrounds.
http://www.amazon.com/Nxg-Pro-4-1-Satellite-Speaker/dp/B0044UHVOK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358380979&sr=8-1&keywords=nxg+pro+4.1
post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Over at TigerDirect.com - you can get the Pioneer BS22 bookshelves and the
C22 center for around $200 > the price will reflect in the cart.
Move down the page
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/search.asp?keywords=pioneer+speakers

Then this Mordaunt Short Carnival 9 subwoofer for $169
http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/MORDCARN9CAL/MORDAUNT-SHORT-Carnival-9-10-100-Watt-Powered-Subwoofer-Calvados/1.html

Since you live in an apartment - this would be a nice system for you

You can save up for some cheap surrounds.
http://www.amazon.com/Nxg-Pro-4-1-Satellite-Speaker/dp/B0044UHVOK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358380979&sr=8-1&keywords=nxg+pro+4.1

That subwoofer page says it is unshielded, so don't place it near a TV.
post #11 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by neuspeed94 View Post

That subwoofer page says it is unshielded, so don't place it near a TV.
That would only effect old CRT TV's
post #12 of 37
JAMO, Flaunce or Pioneer are all ways to go...

JAMO would probably hit your budget best.
post #13 of 37
I think with that budget the best is to go with a home theater in a box ,or the other option but you will need just a little bit more money is pioneer or fluance.
post #14 of 37
Don't get some 5.1 thing with teeny speakers. They simply cannot sound as good, speaking from an acoustical point of view as a speaker engineer.

And yeah, $100 for a sub...Craigslist + luck. I cannot imagine anything new would be worth a damn. Certainly wouldn't be a "real" sub. (The Mordaunt-Short might not be too bad).

You'd be better off listening in stereo to two good speakers. You could get Athena F2 towers or some equivalent which would have good bass. Check out
http://www.audioadvisor.com/products.asp?dept=58
http://www.crutchfield.com/g_12000/Floor-standing-Speakers.html?tp=185

More money definitely can get you better speakers. And speakers last a loooooong time. So splurge as much as you can.
post #15 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for the awesome feedback.

I would love to have bigger speakers or towers but my living room situation just doesn't accomodate them. Given that I can't turn up the bass about 75% of the time, given the thin floor boards and downstairs neighbors, I am thinking about sticking to the smaller speaker setup with a decent sub.

I've narrowed it down to the Energy Classic 5.1, Energy RC-Micro 5.1, Mirage Nano Sats and MLT2s.

They're all priced about the same on Cructhfield so would greatly appreciate your feedback on them!!
post #16 of 37
Small systems have TWO limitations:
1. Low output, which sounds like isn't a huge problem for you, in an apartment.
2. poor bass/midbass. Even with a small subwoofer, you are going to miss some of the low and alot of the midbass. Small speakers just cannot hit low. This will be a praoblem even at low volume.

A friend of mine bought the MLT-2 system for a good sized room with high ceilings and while it is pretty good, you can hear it limitations at any volume. Thos systems are designed for very small rooms (think apartment bedrooms) with low ceilings!
post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by theproman23 View Post


Given that I can't turn up the bass about 75% of the time, given the thin floor boards and downstairs neighbors, I am thinking about sticking to the smaller speaker setup with a decent sub.

If you are worried about bass and the downstairs neighborsyou should avoid a subwoofer.. Midbass will travel through the floor alot less than bass from a dedicated subwoofer.
post #18 of 37
I worry that you think the only reason to buy larger speakers is for volume. The larger drivers can generate frequencies that the smaller ones can not... at any volume. Not to mention the lower frequencies that the smaller drivers can recreate (or have their sub recreate) would be more accurately reproduced by a speaker that was not... well... designed to do only one thing well (being small). All things equal a system that more accurately reproduces the original will sound better at any volume.

If you like to sit and listen to music you will never happily listen to small satellite speakers as the material they leave out (or send to the sub) is noticeable. It's not just very low bass, a lot of those speakers cross over to the subwoofer above 100hz which isn't very low. You can get away with a lot more evils in home theater than with music.

I made these same mistakes myself and sold my polk satellite system and have wasted money with shortsighted value "buys" in the past.

That being said something like the systems you mentioned will absolutely run circles around what's in a good tv or a HTIB system from Target. And I suppose they have a price tag low enough that if you can resell them someday for half that it would be a worthwhile venture. Personally I would go with the Martin Logan setup, though those energy systems can go on sale at newegg for some pretty low prices. Seriously consider the Andrew Jones pioneers, they are not that big, they are designed by someone (not a committee of accountants and interior designers) and you can actually find reviews of them as speakers not a system (not just a sales brochure or an amazon.com review):

One of these:

http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-C22-Designed-Channel-Speaker/dp/B008NCD2EI/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1358528985&sr=1-1&keywords=andrew+jones

Two pairs of these:

http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-BS22-LR-Designed-Bookshelf-Loudspeakers/dp/B008NCD2LG/ref=sr_1_3?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1358528985&sr=1-3&keywords=andrew+jones
post #19 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by bepperb View Post

I worry that you think the only reason to buy larger speakers is for volume. The larger drivers can generate frequencies that the smaller ones can not... at any volume.

Hence why headphones cannot produce sound? For that matter: line arrays.

Your statement is categorically false. A 1/4" driver could reproduce 1Hz, though at a very low SPL.
post #20 of 37
Well that would take the thread into the "a tree falls in the woods and nobody can hear it does it make a sound" which really isn't fair to the original poster.

Sure, a 1/4" driver can reproduce 1hz. Could four of those drivers installed in the corner of a 12 x 12 foot room produce audible sound with the receiver from the original post? No. Could the original poster hand a pair of earbuds in each corner of the room? No. Is it possible to use real world common sense in a recommendation for a real world situation... I think so.

For the purposes of the original poster I'd stand by my post:

"I worry that you think the only reason to buy larger speakers is for volume. The larger drivers can generate frequencies that the smaller ones can not... at any volume."


For people looking to take over another person's thread to argue speaker theory is this better?

I worry that you think the only reason to buy larger speakers is for volume. The smaller drivers likely cannot effectively recreate lower frequencies at any volume and may even have crossover circuitry to prevent them from trying (and risking damage). When a sub tries to recreate these sounds for them a lot of compromises in imaging and detail are lost.
post #21 of 37
I just established that they can at some volume.

Do you perhaps mean "at sufficient volume" when you say "at any volume"?
Quote:
Originally Posted by bepperb View Post

Sure, a 1/4" driver can reproduce 1hz. Could four of those drivers installed in the corner of a 12 x 12 foot room produce audible sound with the receiver from the original post?

Nothing at all produces 1Hz audible. It's not an audible frequency. Maybe to elephants (though I think they only go down to 7 hz)
Quote:
I worry that you think the only reason to buy larger speakers is for volume. The smaller drivers likely cannot effectively recreate lower frequencies at any volume and may even have crossover circuitry to prevent them from trying (and risking damage).

I think you are using a lot of terms you don't have clear definitions for. Including "speaker" since when you say "larger" you appear to mean "driver" and when you say "have crossover" you apparently mean the whole speaker system (cabinet, drivers, crossovers)

I have headphones that reproduce 20Hz. They do it off a (relative to a speaker) small driver.

Ignoring some issues of off-axis performance (since they are designed with specific listening positions); the only thing they cannot do is volume enough to fill a room. So yes, I am looking at larger drivers as a route to volume (though other factors, like increased XMax are involved).
Quote:
When a sub tries to recreate these sounds for them a lot of compromises in imaging and detail are lost.

Subs are ideal for LF. For HF they are poor for a number of reasons. (self canceling, cone breakup, overdamp, over heavy, placement issues, etc)
Edited by JerryLove - 1/18/13 at 11:00am
post #22 of 37
If "some volume" is inaudible from the intended listening position what is the difference between that and no sound at all?
post #23 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by bepperb View Post

If "some volume" is inaudible from the intended listening position what is the difference between that and no sound at all?
Whether your statement is true or false.

The difference between the right word and almost the right word.

You just are unable to drop it nor admit you were wrong huh? The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging.
post #24 of 37
You know, when the choices are 'technically correct but meaningless in the real world' or 'technically incorrect but useful for making a decision', I just don't know what to choose.
post #25 of 37
Sure my statement is false in a lab. It's true in the original poster's room. Which one do you think is relevant to this thread?
post #26 of 37
Cool. My headphones are now a lab and absolute statements which are false when there are true non-absolute versions are suddenly true if at some extreme they are functionally the same.

OK. Let's talk about this thread and a room. What about a 5" driver? Can that do 35hz?
post #27 of 37
You two sure know how to ruin a poster's thread with useless information that in no way is relevant to the original poster.
post #28 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

Cool. My headphones are now a lab and absolute statements which are false when there are true non-absolute versions are suddenly true if at some extreme they are functionally the same.

OK. Let's talk about this thread and a room. What about a 5" driver? Can that do 35 hz?

Yes, but not at a decent SPL.

Speaker drivers have two parameters that dictate the maximum SPL that they can reproduce a given frequency at. One is the diameter of the diaphragm (active part of the cone) and the other is called Xmax or linear travel.

Drivers of a given size can vary strongly in terms of their Xmax. There are 12" drivers that only have 3 mm XmaX while the maximum practical Xmax for a 12" driver at this time is about 30 mm.

For a 5 inch driver the maximum Xmax is 10 mm which translates into the following max SPL versus frequency:

Freq,Hz Max SPL, DB

10 65
20 77
30 84
40 89
50 93
60 96
70 98
80 101
90 103
100 105
110 106
120 108
130 109
140 110
150 112
160 113
170 114

The audibility of sound versus SPL varies with frequency. It turns out that the threshold of audibility at 20 Hz is about 77 dB, so this SOTA 5 inch driver can barely be heard at 20 Hz under the most idea of all possible conditions. That is not very useful!

At 35 Hz this 5" speaker is good for about 86 dB SPL which would still be a very soft sound. BTW this woofer driver runs about $80 retail and is used in a high end speaker that costs about $2k. Given the other parts it takes to make a speaker and usual markups, this is not that far out of line.

Of course not all speakers with 5" drivers are anything like SOTA, so most speakers with 5" drivers would not perform nearly as well as shown in this table. A pretty fair inexpensive speaker with a 5" woofer might perform 3-9 dB worse than is shown in this table.

I would hope that a speaker would be able to put out at least a clean 100 dB at any frequency that it is considered to be useful for minimum enjoyment. That means that this speaker with a 5" woofer cone, if made inexpensively would probably only be useful down to maybe 110 Hz.

If we up the woofer size to 6 1/2" we get the following:

Freq,Hz Max SPL, DB

10 69
20 81
30 88
40 93
50 97
60 100
70 103
80 105
90 107
100 109
110 111
120 112
130 114
140 115
150 116
160 117
170 118

If we back the above numbers off by say 6 dB, this would be what I'd expect from something like an Infinity Primus P163. Definitely needs to be crossed over at 80 Hz or higher but that can be OK.

If we up the woofer cone useful diameter to 12" we get the following for a non-SOTA (fairly inexpensive) subwoofer:

Freq,Hz Max SPL, DB

10 80
20 92
30 99
40 104
50 108
60 111
70 114
80 116
90 118
100 120
110 121
120 123
130 124
140 126
150 127
160 128
170 129

now we are talking about 100 dB SPL at 35 Hz which is beginning to be a bit interesting. I would estimate this to be something in the ballpark of what you get with something like a Polk PSW 505.

Hope this helps you correlate your budget with what you may want to buy.

If I were building a starter system that was fairly nice I would build a 2.1 system with a low cost 5.1 AVR, and have lots of interesting upgrade paths available along with really pretty good sound right now.
post #29 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

Cool. My headphones are now a lab and absolute statements which are false when there are true non-absolute versions are suddenly true if at some extreme they are functionally the same.

OK. Let's talk about this thread and a room. What about a 5" driver? Can that do 35hz?

The question is difficult, you can have no sound.
You can have sound but one that is not loud enough to hear.
You can have sound that is loud enough to hear but not as loud as the sound engineer/mixer/"director" had intended.
You can have flat response exactly as intended.

Where is the bar? I don't think most 5" bookshelf speakers do 35hz +/-3db in most rooms. I think the +/-3db is a higher hurdle than we really need but it makes a convenient way to determine if the speaker as a whole is "doing it" since the manufacturer publishes some (half decent) specs.
post #30 of 37
^^^Both posts above: You are preaching to the choir; though I appreciate that you took the time to type it out biggrin.gif

Though, actually, 86db would be near (higher than actually) THX requirements for sustained sound.

My partiuclar 5" drivers are in a pair and coupled with a MWTL cabinet and will put out somewhere around 108db (@1m) at 38Hz before hitting xmax.

All I've said is that no speaker has a minimum frequency at which it can be moved. What it does have is a potentially severe SPL limitation. It's amazing how much my completely true statement generates disagreement.
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