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post #1 of 12 Old 03-29-2020, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
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New 5.1.2 setup - Looking for recommendations

Hi there!

Long-time lurker on the site. Decided to finally make an account as I've got the opportunity to spend a solid amount of money on an audio system.

For reference, I'm upgrading from an Onkyo 5.1 "home-theater-in-a-box" system that I've had since college. My budget is between $2k-3k.

The dimensions of the room are roughly 12x21x9. It's a rectangle with the TV roughly centered. It's a semi-open floorplan, with three open archways leading into other rooms.

I'd like to upgrade to a 5.1.2 system to take advantage of Atmos. I've done a bit of searching and research and have put together the following list:

Receiver: Denon AVR-3500X
Front R & L: Polk Monitor Series II 70
Rear R & L: Polk Monitor Series II 40
Center: Polk Signature S35
Atmos Heights: Elac Debut 2.0 A4.2
Subwoofer: Polk Signature HTS 12

That setup with current sales and factoring in NY 8% tax has me right around $2200, so I've got around $800 to play with.

I'm looking for your opinions on the best system in my price range. In general, my wife prefers low-to-medium volume listening, but when I'm home alone I like to bump things up. So ideally, a setup that can perform well at all volume levels is preferred.

There are no size restrictions on speakers aside from the center channel. The TV stand has only a 4.5 in clearance for the center channel, which is why I'm considering the S35. I *may* be able to move some things around to fit a bigger center, but I wanted to get your thoughts.

Thanks in advance for reading the text wall, and I appreciate your input!
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post #2 of 12 Old 03-29-2020, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Phanamic View Post
My budget is between $2k-3k.

The dimensions of the room are roughly 12x21x9. It's a rectangle with the TV roughly centered. It's a semi-open floorplan, with three open archways leading into other rooms.

Receiver: Denon AVR-3500X
Front R & L: Polk Monitor Series II 70
Rear R & L: Polk Monitor Series II 40
Center: Polk Signature S35
Atmos Heights: Elac Debut 2.0 A4.2
Subwoofer: Polk Signature HTS 12

That setup with current sales and factoring in NY 8% tax has me right around $2200, so I've got around $800 to play with.

I'm looking for your opinions on the best system in my price range. In general, my wife prefers low-to-medium volume listening, but when I'm home alone I like to bump things up. So ideally, a setup that can perform well at all volume levels is preferred.

There are no size restrictions on speakers aside from the center channel. The TV stand has only a 4.5 in clearance for the center channel, which is why I'm considering the S35. I *may* be able to move some things around to fit a bigger center, but I wanted to get your thoughts.
Do ***ANYTHING*** you can to fit in a bigger center channel---the center does 70-80% of the HT output so *THIS* is where you least want to cut any corners. The S35 has a roughly 30-40% approval rate from folks who've bought it---no lack of clarity, just lack of tonal fullness/realism due to all those tiny woofers making male voices sound androgynous and generally a "thin" type of sound. At the very least, get the S30 which has more decently sized woofers.

Overall, you're making the classic newbie mistake of overspending on the receiver while underspending on the sub and buying towers you don't need.

If you absolutely must have towers because you much prefer their looks, get the Monitor 60 for $340/pr from Amazon, with the S30 center for another $170.

Receiver: Denon X2500 at half the cost of the X3500 (same source)

Surrounds: Polk TSi100, $145/pr (Amazon)

Sub: you have to include ALL CONTIGUOUS space not just the actual listening area. At the very least, I'd get a second HTS-12. Much better choice would be a pair of Monolith 10" THX ($500 each from Monoprice) or Hsu VTF-2 ($600 each).

~ 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 #3 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
Do ***ANYTHING*** you can to fit in a bigger center channel---the center does 70-80% of the HT output so *THIS* is where you least want to cut any corners. The S35 has a roughly 30-40% approval rate from folks who've bought it---no lack of clarity, just lack of tonal fullness/realism due to all those tiny woofers making male voices sound androgynous and generally a "thin" type of sound. At the very least, get the S30 which has more decently sized woofers.

Overall, you're making the classic newbie mistake of overspending on the receiver while underspending on the sub and buying towers you don't need.

If you absolutely must have towers because you much prefer their looks, get the Monitor 60 for $340/pr from Amazon, with the S30 center for another $170.

Receiver: Denon X2500 at half the cost of the X3500 (same source)

Surrounds: Polk TSi100, $145/pr (Amazon)

Sub: you have to include ALL CONTIGUOUS space not just the actual listening area. At the very least, I'd get a second HTS-12. Much better choice would be a pair of Monolith 10" THX ($500 each from Monoprice) or Hsu VTF-2 ($600 each).
Thanks very much for your input! I appreciate you warning me about typical noob mistakes. Like I said, I'm relatively new to home theater stuff.

I believe I can make space for a larger center on a lower shelf of the TV stand. It won't be perfectly centered because it has to sit next to the receiver, but it'll fit there.

Is there any particular reason why towers are unnecessary? I definitely prefer the look but I'm open to changing things around.

After doing some more digging yesterday, I read of a lot of positive thoughts on the Emotiva speaker line. They're more expensive but I think I can make them work in my budget with some changes. Ideally, I'd like to get a high-quality system that will last awhile and I won't be itching to upgrade. Would the AVR-X3500H be more useful for those speakers due to the lower impedance, or should still I bump down to the X2500H like you recommended?

Here's a potential setup with the Emotivas:

Receiver: Denon AVR-X3500H (or X2500H if the lower impedance isn't necessary)
Front L/R: Emotiva Airmotiv T1+
Center: Emotiva Airmotiv C1+ (C2+ is too long to fit on the shelf next to the receiver)
Rear L/R: Emotiva Airmotiv B1+
Sub: Monolith THX 10 x2 or SVS PB-1000 x2
Atmos: Emotiva Airmotiv A1

You recommended the Monolith 10s but I've also heard a lot of good reviews of the SVS PB-1000s. Is there a big difference between the two? They seem about the same price.

Thanks again for your help!
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post #4 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Phanamic View Post
Thanks very much for your input! I appreciate you warning me about typical noob mistakes. Like I said, I'm relatively new to home theater stuff.

I believe I can make space for a larger center on a lower shelf of the TV stand. It won't be perfectly centered because it has to sit next to the receiver, but it'll fit there.

Is there any particular reason why towers are unnecessary? I definitely prefer the look but I'm open to changing things around.

After doing some more digging yesterday, I read of a lot of positive thoughts on the Emotiva speaker line. They're more expensive but I think I can make them work in my budget with some changes. Ideally, I'd like to get a high-quality system that will last awhile and I won't be itching to upgrade. Would the AVR-X3500H be more useful for those speakers due to the lower impedance, or should still I bump down to the X2500H like you recommended?

Here's a potential setup with the Emotivas:

Receiver: Denon AVR-X3500H (or X2500H if the lower impedance isn't necessary)
Front L/R: Emotiva Airmotiv T1+
Center: Emotiva Airmotiv C1+ (C2+ is too long to fit on the shelf next to the receiver)
Rear L/R: Emotiva Airmotiv B1+
Sub: Monolith THX 10 x2 or SVS PB-1000 x2
Atmos: Emotiva Airmotiv A1

You recommended the Monolith 10s but I've also heard a lot of good reviews of the SVS PB-1000s. Is there a big difference between the two? They seem about the same price.
Towers are unnecessary if you have a good sub ($500 and up) or two---they'll go much lower and produce more, and higher quality, bass than any tower at ANY pricepoint. Their only advantage is aesthetic. The only time that towers have a clear advantage is if you see yourself doing a lot of music listening in 2.0 mode (stereo, no subs) which a few hardcore music lovers prefer.

With that said, if you have a strong visual preference for towers, I'd recommend the Emotiva T-Zero...the $300 they would save you compared to the T1 would be much better spent on getting a pair of Hsu VTF-2 for your subs ($600 each, shipped), which are much better than both the PB1000 and the Monolith 10.

~ 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 #5 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
Towers are unnecessary if you have a good sub ($500 and up) or two---they'll go much lower and produce more, and higher quality, bass than any tower at ANY pricepoint. Their only advantage is aesthetic. The only time that towers have a clear advantage is if you see yourself doing a lot of music listening in 2.0 mode (stereo, no subs) which a few hardcore music lovers prefer.

With that said, if you have a strong visual preference for towers, I'd recommend the Emotiva T-Zero...the $300 they would save you compared to the T1 would be much better spent on getting a pair of Hsu VTF-2 for your subs ($600 each, shipped), which are much better than both the PB1000 and the Monolith 10.
Appreciate the input. Do you believe it's worth spending the extra money on the Emotivas versus the Polks? Are they going to provide enough of a bump in quality to justify the cost?

Also, on the topic of two subs, I mentioned previously my wife has a preference for low-to-medium volume listening. I am a little concerned that the two subs might be too loud for her for normal listening. Can you speak on your experience with dual subs? Do they "drown out" the other audio at lower volumes?
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post #6 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 10:22 AM
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Appreciate the input. Do you believe it's worth spending the extra money on the Emotivas versus the Polks? Are they going to provide enough of a bump in quality to justify the cost?

Also, on the topic of two subs, I mentioned previously my wife has a preference for low-to-medium volume listening. I am a little concerned that the two subs might be too loud for her for normal listening. Can you speak on your experience with dual subs? Do they "drown out" the other audio at lower volumes?
Yes, the Polks IMO are not in the same league---especially when listening at low/moderate volumes where the Emotivas' AMT tweeter provides far more satisfying detail. The Polks typically sound better when turned up, according to several of their owners.

Every sub has a "Gain" knob on the back...you can always turn them down if needed. It's always better to have more sub than you need, versus not enough. You have an enormous amount of contiguous space due to the open-plan layout, which will dissipate a lot more the subs' output than a smaller fully enclosed space.

Having dual subs means you'll get a much more even, consistent frequency response due to room nulls being cancelled out especially given optimal placement (ideally, each sub in a diagonally opposite corner). When you run auto-calibration tools like Audyssey, the receiver will level match the sub to the other speakers, to prevent any one of them drowning out the others---and you can also manually readjust to suit your own preferences as well.

~ 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 #7 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Yes, the Polks IMO are not in the same league---especially when listening at low/moderate volumes where the Emotivas' AMT tweeter provides far more satisfying detail. The Polks typically sound better when turned up, according to several of their owners.

Every sub has a "Gain" knob on the back...you can always turn them down if needed. It's always better to have more sub than you need, versus not enough. You have an enormous amount of contiguous space due to the open-plan layout, which will dissipate a lot more the subs' output than a smaller fully enclosed space.

Having dual subs means you'll get a much more even, consistent frequency response due to room nulls being cancelled out especially given optimal placement (ideally, each sub in a diagonally opposite corner). When you run auto-calibration tools like Audyssey, the receiver will level match the sub to the other speakers, to prevent any one of them drowning out the others---and you can also manually readjust to suit your own preferences as well.
Thanks for the explanation!

OK, last question for now. Previously you recommended moving down to the AVR-X2500H from the AVR-X3500H when I was considering the Polks. Should I consider bumping back up to the X3500H with the Emotivas due to their lower impedance? Are there other receivers I should consider?
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post #8 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 11:18 AM
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OK, last question for now. Previously you recommended moving down to the AVR-X2500H from the AVR-X3500H when I was considering the Polks. Should I consider bumping back up to the X3500H with the Emotivas due to their lower impedance? Are there other receivers I should consider?
No, I would stick with the X2500 given that it's about half the price of the x3500...you'd get marginal benefits moving up to the x3500.

Unless you are looking for rock-concert volume levels, I think you'll be fine with the x2500.

~ 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 #9 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 11:36 AM
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Thanks for the explanation!

OK, last question for now. Previously you recommended moving down to the AVR-X2500H from the AVR-X3500H when I was considering the Polks. Should I consider bumping back up to the X3500H with the Emotivas due to their lower impedance? Are there other receivers I should consider?
The X3500 has a better version of audyssey and can eq dual subs independently. You'll also get pre-outs (not available on the X2500) which can be useful if you want to connect an external amp. If you're not a volume freak, you'll be fine with the X2500H, but if you can get the X3500 without compromising on speakers or subs, it would be worth it IMO.

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post #10 of 12 Old 03-30-2020, 12:17 PM
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The X3500 has a better version of audyssey and can eq dual subs independently. You'll also get pre-outs (not available on the X2500) which can be useful if you want to connect an external amp. If you're not a volume freak, you'll be fine with the X2500H, but if you can get the X3500 without compromising on speakers or subs, it would be worth it IMO.

Common misconception regarding XT32. It sets distance and levels independently but EQs them as one.

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post #11 of 12 Old 03-31-2020, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
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No, I would stick with the X2500 given that it's about half the price of the x3500...you'd get marginal benefits moving up to the x3500.

Unless you are looking for rock-concert volume levels, I think you'll be fine with the x2500.
So I've been looking around at a variety of things. Another question:

If I can get a new TV stand with enough clearance to get the Emotiva C2+ center channel (which appears to be downright massive), do you think it's worth it over the C1+? I know you mentioned that the center was vital, so I wanted to consider shuffling more money towards it.
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post #12 of 12 Old 03-31-2020, 08:57 AM
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If I can get a new TV stand with enough clearance to get the Emotiva C2+ center channel (which appears to be downright massive), do you think it's worth it over the C1+?
Definitely, yes. For HT, I would take a big center like that with bookshelf speakers over a small center with big towers, any day.

I would use a measuring tape to make sure it'll fit before you order, though.

~ 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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