L/C/R Advice #178730 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-04-2020, 11:44 PM - Thread Starter
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L/C/R Advice #178730

Hello enthusiasts,

I am having some trouble settling on speakers for my home theater / listening room even after probably 100 hours researching and doing in-home trials. Some advice specific to my situation would be appreciated.

The listening room is a bit oddly shaped but the main area is about 13' x 20'. Speakers are set up on the 13' side. MLP is roughly at the center. It is no problem to place LCR a few feet away from the walls.

Usage is 10% movies / 40% TV (netflix) / 50% music, but I care much more about the quality of the music. Part of what has made research difficult is that I mostly listen to electronic music (it seems most discussion focuses on traditional instrumentation). But I like all genres so I do listen to hip hop, metal, pop, classical, rock, jazz, etc. on occasion. I frequently have company so good off-axis is a major plus.

Things I have already: Denon X3300W receiver (and the Audyssey app), two SVS PB-1000 subs at diagonally opposite corners of the room, Emotiva B1 surrounds. The B1s are quite neutral and I don't care very much about the surrounds (it only really matters for the 10% movies) so I will probably keep those.

I am looking for L/C/R to round out the 5.1 setup. Because I listen to a lot of music that gets down to ~30 Hz, subs are always on. Partially thanks to Audyssey dual sub EQ I am quite happy with the sub performance. So towers, bookshelves, MTM could all work. I was originally aiming to spend $500-1000 since I got the impression it would be diminishing returns and a matter of taste above that. But after trying some of the most commonly recommended speakers in that range, nothing has especially wowed me. I have no problem spending more, maybe up to $1500 or even $2000 if necessary. But partially I am wondering if I just don't know what I'm listening for and so nothing will wow me for any price.

So far I have just been trying L/R and then I will use the matching center. I have tried the Emotiva T1s, the JBL Studio 580s, and the HTD Level 3 bookshelves. I wasn't a fan of the HTDs so those already went back. Those had too much of a "speaker" sound as opposed to vanishing. The T1s and Studio 580s sound very similar. I would say the 580 sounds better to me maybe 20% of the time and the T1 sounds better 10%. But neither has made me feel "wow, this sounds great." They are both a solid "good". I have some Ascend 170SEs on the way to see how I like the Ascend sound signature. If I like the type of sound but need more, I could try the 340s. Or maybe even go up to the enthusiast speakers?

The main other recommendation I see a lot around this price range is the Chane A2.4s. Although I have read plenty of arguments one way or the other, I get the sense that these are similar in flavor to the Emotivas and Ascends, so I am cautious to trial them given the hefty shipping charge. So now I am starting to look at higher prices, but reading about those just seems even more subjective. I can find at least one thread somewhere on this forum describing any $1000-2000 pair of speakers as beating everything in its class and another thread saying the same pair is indiscernable or worse than one of the sets of speakers mentioned above. And most music-oriented discussion is without a sub which changes the game considerably.

Is there an L/C/R which is known to work well with electronic music when crossed over at 80 Hz to two capable subs?

Thank you so much for any advice you can provide.
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post

Is there an L/C/R which is known to work well with electronic music when crossed over at 80 Hz to two capable subs?

Thank you so much for any advice you can provide.
Of course but trying at home as you have been doing is the only way to go so I'd take advantage of Crutchfield's $10/box return fee on bookshelf speakers within 60 days and order a few sets from them.

Revel and PSB are renowned for using detailed acoustic measurements in their speaker designs so a pair of each from them would be a good place to start and if you don't like either pair you're out a max of $40.

Martin Logan 35XTs measure VERY well and are massively discounted at the moment.

Dynaudio are also worth a look.

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post #3 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 11:36 AM
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 11:46 AM
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Can you accommodate a vertical center speaker or does it have to be in a horizontal configuration? When you listen to 2 channel do you only use the L&R, with sub? Any physical limitations on the center? Any aesthetic considerations? Can you better quantify what it is that you are looking for and that the current choices are not delivering?

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post #5 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
I have tried the Emotiva T1s, the JBL Studio 580s, and the HTD Level 3 bookshelves. I wasn't a fan of the HTDs so those already went back. Those had too much of a "speaker" sound as opposed to vanishing. The T1s and Studio 580s sound very similar. I would say the 580 sounds better to me maybe 20% of the time and the T1 sounds better 10%. But neither has made me feel "wow, this sounds great." They are both a solid "good". I have some Ascend 170SEs on the way to see how I like the Ascend sound signature. If I like the type of sound but need more, I could try the 340s. Or maybe even go up to the enthusiast speakers?

The main other recommendation I see a lot around this price range is the Chane A2.4s. Although I have read plenty of arguments one way or the other, I get the sense that these are similar in flavor to the Emotivas and Ascends, so I am cautious to trial them given the hefty shipping charge. So now I am starting to look at higher prices, but reading about those just seems even more subjective. I can find at least one thread somewhere on this forum describing any $1000-2000 pair of speakers as beating everything in its class and another thread saying the same pair is indiscernable or worse than one of the sets of speakers mentioned above. And most music-oriented discussion is without a sub which changes the game considerably.

Is there an L/C/R which is known to work well with electronic music when crossed over at 80 Hz to two capable subs?
Do you still have the JBLs and Emotiva T1s on hand? If yes, I would try listening to music with Audyssey turned OFF. Keep the subs on at a 60Hz crossover, gain control at no more than 12 o clock tops...the PB1000 are known to be competent for HT and a bit slow/muddy/flabby for music so I would be conservative with them.

Audyssey is hit or miss, far from infallible, and mostly useful for HT usage or if your room is unusually bad acoustically. For music I would just go with 2 channel Stereo or Pure Direct mode, all tone controls off...I suspect Audyssey is screwing up those speakers' performance and character with its wonkish and inscrutable settings. You could also try running those 2 towers full-range with the subs off completely. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.
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~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #6 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your replies. I actually just decided to try a pair of Revel M16's from Crutchfield so I will see how those sound. $10/box returns is a sweet deal.



I will do some reading about the other recommendations.


The center can be horizontal or a bookshelf, but there is no room for a tower. The bottom of the screen is around 30" and it is not acoustically transparent (nor is there any room behind it). Otherwise there are not really any limitations on size.


I am not sure if I will mostly listen L/R + sub or L/R/C + sub. So far I have preferred to have the center on, but recently I have been testing just the L/R (no sub even) so that I can switch back and forth during songs.



It is a dedicated HT/listening room so the aesthetics don't matter much. I might pay 5% more or so for more modern looking cabinets since the room as a whole has a fairly modern aesthetic.



And yes, I still have the 580s and the T1s. When I have been A/Bing I have been doing just the L/R, no subs, no EQ, crossed over at 60. So it's not an Audyssey issue. But there also aren't any problems per se - both sets of speakers sound good - they just do not give me the wow factor I was hoping for. Positive speaker reviews always talk about how amazing certain songs sound and I just haven't felt that way about anything yet.



Unfortunately I cannot be very helpful with comments about what I'm looking for because I am not a critical listener. I don't really know how to evaluate brightness, dynamicness, clarity, soundstage, imaging, etc.
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post #7 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
Thank you all for your replies. I actually just decided to try a pair of Revel M16's from Crutchfield so I will see how those sound. $10/box returns is a sweet deal.

The center can be horizontal or a bookshelf, but there is no room for a tower. The bottom of the screen is around 30" and it is not acoustically transparent (nor is there any room behind it). Otherwise there are not really any limitations on size.

I am not sure if I will mostly listen L/R + sub or L/R/C + sub. So far I have preferred to have the center on, but recently I have been testing just the L/R (no sub even) so that I can switch back and forth during songs.

It is a dedicated HT/listening room so the aesthetics don't matter much. I might pay 5% more or so for more modern looking cabinets since the room as a whole has a fairly modern aesthetic.

And yes, I still have the 580s and the T1s. When I have been A/Bing I have been doing just the L/R, no subs, no EQ, crossed over at 60. So it's not an Audyssey issue. But there also aren't any problems per se - both sets of speakers sound good - they just do not give me the wow factor I was hoping for. Positive speaker reviews always talk about how amazing certain songs sound and I just haven't felt that way about anything yet.
The M16s' 3db roll-off is 55db so you'll probably need the sub on when listening. I'd expect them to have a little more "sizzle" than the Emotivas, though I would've expected that from the JBL too.

The good news about the M16 is that it's sold as a single, so if that was your final choice you could simply order a 3rd one for use as your center.

If looking for that "sizzle," this would also be worth a $10 listen:
https://www.crutchfield.com/p_714RP1...60M-Ebony.html

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #8 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
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...the PB1000 are known to be competent for HT and a bit slow/muddy/flabby for music so I would be conservative with them.

Actually can I follow up on this observation? I was under the impression that subs were mostly gauged by how low and how loud. What sorts of issues does one run into with a "slow" sub? What subs in the $400-600 range are recommended for music (but still go down to 20-25 Hz for HT)? My room is only about 2,000-2,500 sq. ft. and the 10" woofers have seemed to provide more than enough bass for me.


One of my PB-1000's is still in its return window, so I could be talked into getting a more "musical" sub if someone can provide some links to support this view.
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post #9 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
Actually can I follow up on this observation? I was under the impression that subs were mostly gauged by how low and how loud. What sorts of issues does one run into with a "slow" sub? What subs in the $400-600 range are recommended for music (but still go down to 20-25 Hz for HT)? My room is only about 2,000-2,500 sq. ft. and the 10" woofers have seemed to provide more than enough bass for me.

One of my PB-1000's is still in its return window, so I could be talked into getting a more "musical" sub if someone can provide some links to support this view.
HT bass is all about how low and how loud it goes doing movie sound effects.

Music bass is more about how accurate, tight and fast the bass is...can it keep up with the music?

ask/dig around the Subwoofers sub-forum, this topic has been covered exhaustively many times.

$400-600 range, I'd look at the RSL Speedwoofer 10S ($400) and Rythmik LV12F ($600).

In my music system, in slightly bigger space than yours, I have two of these and have been very happy with them musically:
https://www.jbl.com/SUB+550PBK.html
They're unfortunately sold out, not sure when JBL will have them back in stock at that price...usually just once a year for a couple weeks around Thanksgiving.

Used to run the same mains with an RBH I-12 which is a big hulking HT sub similar to the SVS PB2000. The JBLs being a sealed design don't go as low or loud, but you can hear distinct bass notes that mesh perfectly with the music, as opposed to heavier and indistinct THUDS that the bigger ported I-12 produces.

I think this is still available on Amazon for $400, but you don't get the SVS free returns/upgrade policy:
https://www.svsound.com/products/sb12-nsd

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #10 of 16 Old 01-06-2020, 12:42 PM
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To get the most from your L&R when listening to stereo, the speaker position coupled with the seating position is of great importance. The best positioning is often using the rule of thirds (speakers 1/3 room depth from the front wall and seating 1/3 room depth from the rear wall), however this is often not an option in most real rooms. So, experimentation is required to get the most from the your speakers within the physical limitations of the room layout. Change the speakers' width, depth to wall, toe-in, even height (or rake) can make a difference. When you get it right, the soundstage opens up, and it is no longer you just listening to two speakers, but to an entire front wall of sound. That's what you should strive to achieve, and it won't happen quickly. Sometimes just a few inches of movement can make all the difference. Just keep tweaking until it sounds "right", i.e. the band is in the room playing just for you.

Give it a try. Nothing to lose (except for more than a few hours listening to music) and a lot to gain!

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post #11 of 16 Old 01-06-2020, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
Actually can I follow up on this observation? I was under the impression that subs were mostly gauged by how low and how loud. What sorts of issues does one run into with a "slow" sub? What subs in the $400-600 range are recommended for music (but still go down to 20-25 Hz for HT)? My room is only about 2,000-2,500 sq. ft. and the 10" woofers have seemed to provide more than enough bass for me.


One of my PB-1000's is still in its return window, so I could be talked into getting a more "musical" sub if someone can provide some links to support this view.
There are none other than anecdotal "user" reviews. The PB1000s measure very well. Even with subs, some have a preference for a different sound signature. If you like the subs then keep them. If you think another sub would be better at around the same price, order one and hear for yourself. Other manufacturers with subs in that price range is pretty much limited to Rythmik, HSU and RSL. The RSL just won't have as much output under 30hz as your PB1000s or subs from the other 2. It is the least expensive though and includes shipping both ways and a 30 day trial period.

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post #12 of 16 Old 01-06-2020, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

Thought I would give an update. I have been busy spending a lot of money over the last few days. Thankfully, most of it will come back to me in due time...

First, the speakers. I am halfway through building a set of large acoustic panels for the listening room. They should be done on Friday when the insulation is ready for pickup. I will hang on to the JBL 580s and the Emotiva T1s for another few weeks and give them a try with the panels. The room acoustics may be hiding things...

As for other speakers, the Ascend 170SEs are still on the way. I spent several hours reading about other speakers that may be worth trying for a higher budget... it looks like there are some very good options around the $800/pair mark. I already mentioned grabbing a pair of Revel M16's from Crutchfield for the $10/box returns. I decided to get a pair of KEF LS50s from Best Buy since they do free returns. If I like them, there are many used sets around the same $800/pair price. And there was a great deal on open box Focal Aria 906s from A4L, although their return policy is quite bad... will probably end up costing $100 or so. But it was worth it to try a pair for the same $800 since they seem to go for much more than that in general. I'd love to try the Dynaudios and the Martin Logans, but I am already floating quite a bit of money, so I should probably stop for now...

Second, the subwoofers. I did a great deal of reading about the truth behind "musical" vs "theater" subs. My final impression is that (1) there are legitimate differences in how subs with the same SPL/extension can sound, but (2) most of the common advice with things like sealed vs. ported, small vs. fast, etc. do not hold in generality. A good reference I found dispelling myths: (data-bass.com/#/articles/5cbf5e7357f7140004d6d0ec?_k=uxc1ff). But I also found many different people describing differences in the sound of subs across brands/models. Coincidentally, Rythmik is running some holiday specials. So I decided to get a pair of Rythmik L12's for around $1,000, which is pretty much the same as what I paid for the 2x SVS PB-1000.

I will keep you all posted once things settle down. Currently I am out a few thousand dollars and that feels a bit scary, so I'm looking forward to comparing... hoping to have everything finished within two weeks when I go back to work (major perk of being a college professor: long winter break!).
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post #13 of 16 Old 01-07-2020, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
Hello,

Thought I would give an update. I have been busy spending a lot of money over the last few days. Thankfully, most of it will come back to me in due time...

First, the speakers. I am halfway through building a set of large acoustic panels for the listening room. They should be done on Friday when the insulation is ready for pickup. I will hang on to the JBL 580s and the Emotiva T1s for another few weeks and give them a try with the panels. The room acoustics may be hiding things...

As for other speakers, the Ascend 170SEs are still on the way. I spent several hours reading about other speakers that may be worth trying for a higher budget... it looks like there are some very good options around the $800/pair mark. I already mentioned grabbing a pair of Revel M16's from Crutchfield for the $10/box returns. I decided to get a pair of KEF LS50s from Best Buy since they do free returns. If I like them, there are many used sets around the same $800/pair price. And there was a great deal on open box Focal Aria 906s from A4L, although their return policy is quite bad... will probably end up costing $100 or so. But it was worth it to try a pair for the same $800 since they seem to go for much more than that in general. I'd love to try the Dynaudios and the Martin Logans, but I am already floating quite a bit of money, so I should probably stop for now...

Second, the subwoofers. I did a great deal of reading about the truth behind "musical" vs "theater" subs. My final impression is that (1) there are legitimate differences in how subs with the same SPL/extension can sound, but (2) most of the common advice with things like sealed vs. ported, small vs. fast, etc. do not hold in generality. A good reference I found dispelling myths: (data-bass.com/#/articles/5cbf5e7357f7140004d6d0ec?_k=uxc1ff). But I also found many different people describing differences in the sound of subs across brands/models. Coincidentally, Rythmik is running some holiday specials. So I decided to get a pair of Rythmik L12's for around $1,000, which is pretty much the same as what I paid for the 2x SVS PB-1000.

I will keep you all posted once things settle down. Currently I am out a few thousand dollars and that feels a bit scary, so I'm looking forward to comparing... hoping to have everything finished within two weeks when I go back to work (major perk of being a college professor: long winter break!).

To make sure I read that right you have LS50's, Aria 906's, and M16's on the way? That will be a fun comparison. Please let us know your thoughts. All are speakers I'd love to have. If I bought one right now it would be the the Aria 906's.

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post #14 of 16 Old 01-07-2020, 02:00 PM
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So I decided to get a pair of Rythmik L12's for around $1,000, which is pretty much the same as what I paid for the 2x SVS PB-1000.
No doubt the PB1000 will go lower and louder.

Will be curious as to whether you hear differences in the QUALITY of the bass when used with music.

Looking forward to your update!

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #15 of 16 Old 01-14-2020, 04:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

I wanted to update with the results just in case anyone in the future finds this thread and wants to know what happened. I have been frustrated by some open-ended threads when I was researching.

There were many large changes made at once, so it is hard to say exactly what was most important. I built and mounted broadband absorption at the first reflections (although, as I found by reading many different threads over the years, there are many strong opinions about whether this is a good idea...) and bass traps in the front corners. I swapped in the new subwoofers, dual Rythmik L12's. And I moved the L/R speaker positions a bit further away from both the back and side walls, about 2 ft from each. It was probably about 10 ft to the MLP and the speakers were separated by 8-9 ft. I set up the two pairs of speakers in an AB AB configuration and switched between them using the Zone 2 on my AVR since it could level match.

The Emotiva T1s and the JBL 580s both sounded incredibly better under these circumstances. I can see now why both come highly recommended at their respective price points. I would say the 580 improved more than the T1 and had a clear edge. I'll be honest that it is hard to remember what the sub-bass used to sound like and if it is much different. It certainly sounds great and gets plenty loud and low. I actually think the L12s can go lower than my PB1000s could; there are parts of some electronic songs where a sinking bass note drops to 15 Hz and I literally felt the air vibrate with the L12s that were unnoticeable with the PB1000s. I am sure the PB1000 gets much louder in the 20-40 Hz range but it is not an issue with two subwoofers in my small/mid-size room. Overall, given how much better music sounds now, I would not be surprised if at least part of that is finding the servo subs to sound better.

Although I may have been happy just keeping the 580s, I had several other speakers on the way, so of course I had to try them out. The Ascend 170SEs didn't do as well, which is not surprising given their much lower price point. They were the very cheapest speakers I ordered, even before I increased my budget by a factor of two. I found the Revel M16, KEF LS50, Focal Aria 906 all to be fantastic. I preferred all three to the 580. They each sounded slightly different, but did not give an impression of being better or worse than the others. I personally slightly preferred the sound of the 906s. A few notes on the 906s: I have never really felt a good understanding of "soundstage" before, but these were incredible. The sound really did feel more enveloping than anything else I tried. They also had a much higher sensitivity, 89.5 vs the 86/85 of the Revel, KEF, resp. For those three reasons (slight preference for the sound, very "wide" sound, louder) I am keeping the 906s.

I ordered another pair of 906s to use one as a center. I will try to sell the other one... will take forever I'm sure, but I'm not in a hurry and a pair of 906s for $799 was only marginally more expensive than the CC900 at $699.

I will note that the LS50s seemed to do really well off axis, maybe because of the concentric drivers. Because I don't have or want Atmos and my surrounds (5.1 setup) are very close to the wall seats, they are raised about 2 ft from ear level (as I recall, this is what Dolby recommends anyway). Therefore I decided to get a pair of KEF Q150s for the surrounds since they were on sale for only $299/pr. I have read they are similar in flavor to the LS50s, just a bit less detailed/refined. I expect they will have much better vertical off-axis than my current Emotiva B1s, which will be nice for the occasional 5.1 movie or concert.

Thanks to everyone who replied. Very happy with the new setup, the new speakers/subwoofers plus the room changes gave me the "wow" I was missing. I don't anticipate wanting to upgrade unless I have money burning a hole in my pocket several years from now.
Zorba922, bear123, Kini62 and 1 others like this.
radagastbrown is offline  
post #16 of 16 Old 01-14-2020, 07:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastbrown View Post
Because I don't have or want Atmos

WRONG



You DO want Atmos - you just don't know it yet


I listen to Electronic music also - EDM, DubStep, Future, Ambient etc - and my room is a similar size (20x14x9) and I run a 7.x.6 Atmos setup. When using DSU (Atmos upmixer) or Mutlivhannel stereo the sound is incredible - all around you with sounds zipping around coming from different locations etc. It really does put you right in the middle and totally envelopes you. I am no wordsmith so I can't really describe it adequately unfortunately.



My setup consists of all 13 speakers being identical 30yr old 5" bookshelfs which I picked up secondhand for a total of about $400USD. With them being identical the soundstage is seamless and adds to the immersion of the electronic sounds.
And with my multiple subs (and more coming) the system runs beautifully at 0MV, although I generally don't listen much above -10MV as that is plenty loud enough.


So I would suggest you keep an open mind in regard to Atmos and maybe look at getting the best small, affordable bookshelf you can now with a view to adding more later, along with an Atmos AVR - you won't regret it


Also FYI on placement and absorption etc, in my room I mucked around with speaker placement for months and my little old L&R speakers eventually ended up 16" in from the side walls and 24" in from the front wall and toed in to meet about 24" behind the MLP and in stereo mode it is hard to tell the centre, surrounds and heights aren't working - you literally have to put your ears to them to make sure they are not playing - the soundstage and imaging is that good. And I run no room correction or acoustic treatment whatsoever. After reading up on the subject I can only assume the reflections I am getting are actually HELPING this. I do have ringing in the room but it is only audible and fatiguing approaching 0MV and I do plan to put absorption panels in the room - just not on the first reflection points


I have 2 go-to songs for demo-ing my room - both just from Youtube so not even quality sources and up-mixed to DSU or Multichannel. They are Adele's Rolling in the Deep and Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah - both live versions and neither of which I would normally listen to
They both make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and almost bring tears to peoples eyes they are that powerful and sound that amazing and that is played at close to 0MV.


Sorry for the long rambling post but I just thought you might like to hear some of these things since your room and tastes are (I think) similar to mine and it may help you think about your room a bit differently.

Last edited by niterida; 01-14-2020 at 09:18 PM.
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