Originally Posted by Zorba922
Download a free SPL Meter app to your smartphone or tablet. See how many decibels you prefer to listen at. Most people are in the 65-75db range. "Reference level" means 85db and up...this is uncomfortably loud for most people
This is really good advice. One issue I see with this is that the level one prefers to listen at depends on the efficiency and power handling capabilities of the speaker they're listening to.
I currently own 3 sets of speakers: Infinity Beta 20, JTR Noesis 210, and Revel M105. The Beta 20s and the M105s sound "too loud" at the levels the 210s sound perfectly comfortable at. My living room is 13' x 19' x 10, but it's also completely open to the kitchen on the left side, so bigger than the OP's room. All three systems are capable of reference level in this room, but the Beta 20s and M105s sound "very loud" at that level. I think most people underestimate the amount of compression/distortion present with most hifi speakers at reference level. It's something you really don't hear until you've heard them side by side with the alternative, at least it was that way with me. I bought the Revels after the JTR's, but I lived with the Infinity 5.1 system for 7-8 years before I bought the JTRs. I've always listened somewhere around reference level for music and movies, and on the Infinity system, it still sounded awesome, but guests were always asking me to turn it down. When I got the JTRs, it was like a "oh, that's what that's supposed to sound like" experience. The Infinity system sounded great at reference, but it's clear now that those speakers were distorting/compressing, and I just had no idea what I was missing.
So while I agree with "See how many decibels you prefer to listen at", you almost need a set of high efficiency and power speakers to properly determine that. Running that test on my JTRs would lead to completely different level than running that test on the Infinity or Revels. Running this test on typical hifi speakers isn't likely to lead to a "true" result.
I'm not sure what PSA return policy is. Do they have a demo period? Maybe someone with those type of speakers in the OP's area he could demo? If you have a good IMAX theater close by, maybe taking an SPL meter in there for perspective would be a good idea?
The other issue I see with this is that you can't just listen for a few minutes each at various levels to determine what you like for movies. Your ears will attenuate quite a bit over the course of a 2hr movie. What sounds good at first will probably be too quiet by the end of the movie. What might sound too loud at first might sound perfect by the end of the movie. You need to watch a good action movie at 75db in its entirety, rewatch the same movie at 85db, and then determine which viewing you enjoyed more.
I like you pointing out that one doesn't need to spend 10-12k(or anywhere near that) to get truly outstanding sound. Always good to save money if you'll be perfectly happy spending less. I think it depends on the person, though. I started with a $500 budget, lived with that for a year, moved to a $1,200 budget for 7-8 years, then I moved on to the JTRs. I bought the Revels for a smaller 2 channel system in my office, and I'm already looking at eventually getting either Salon 2s or M2s
for my ultimate 2 channel system. I'm the kind of person that compromises based on price, only to eventually buy the true version of what I really wanted. I would have been better off just buying Salon 2s from the beginning.
10-12k is a lot to spend for a true "newbie". You might be perfectly satisfied with a 2-5k system and anything beyond that might be a waste. Or, spending too little now might lead you to doing what I did and spending more in the long run. What kind of person are you OP? Also, what sort systems have you heard? I wouldn't definitely spend some time trying to find systems to listen to before spending that kind of money on your first system.
If you really find that you want to spend that much money, I think you absolutely need to budget for 2 or more quality subs. It's more important than rear or side speakers imo. You might be able to swing a JTR system with that budget, but it would definitely be cutting it close. A good PSA system would definitely be within your budget. I've never heard PSA speakers, but they're as efficient as JTR and get great reviews here.