Originally Posted by Patrick707
It'd also be cool if someone wants to comment on general concepts here - what is it about the HTIB's included speakers that are so crappy? What exactly is the improvement in sound that you expect to hear from a cheap set of replacements? How much improvement can you expect? What are general things to look for in a set of speakers, whether they be cheap or more expensive, and in particular, what is the feature set that you can expect to see in cheap replacement speakers and how does that compare to (for instance) the 790's included speakers?
HTIB speakers are usually made with materials of the lowest common denominator so that the entire unit can meet a certain pricepoint. the cabinets are made of cheap material with little reinforcement. the cross-overs are bare-bones and often not optimized for the configuration of the box. the drivers are made of heavy paper or a cheap synthetic polymer. i could go on, but you get the idea.
swap out your front three HTIB speakers with a decent center channel and a pair of bookshelves that can survive on their own merits in the A/V market
. the most dramatic improvement will be the improvement in clarity. those HTIB speakers will sound like there was a pillow in front of them before (most noticeable with movie dialogue). imaging will be more precise, the soundstage created by stereo music will be wider and more expansive. bass will be more rich and natural sounding. you'll notice the speakers themselves are more sturdy and have general feel of decent craftsmanship. you may get 5-way binding posts instead of cheap spring clips.
the increase in quality going from HTIB speakers to decent $150/pr is a huge jump. as you go up the food chain, there are real improvments to be seen, but the incremental size of the performance improvements gets smaller and smaller. once you get to $500/pr and up, many people (not all) start realizing diminishing returns.
i started out with an onkyo 780 HTIB, and have since gone on to a 5.0 athena setup ($300) and an SVS sub. the sub is a whole 'nother discussion, but the logic is the same...