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post #1 of 17 Old 05-24-2020, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Front Speakers: In-wall vs Passive Soundbar

I am build a new house and sadly the wife said I need a more elegant speaker solution. I was planning on going with a 5.1 setup with three in-wall speakers for the front and two ceiling speakers for the surrounds. I shared my plans with a friend who is in the business recommended I instead look at a passive soundbar for the front channels.

I don't have any experience with higher end soundbars, but most seem to have 3" or 4" drivers whereas the in-walls speakers from Triad and Definitive Technology I was previously looking at had 5.25" or 6.25" drivers. The room is large at 19'x15' and I am concerned if the soundbar can drive a room this size nor will it have the soundstage of in-wall speakers mounted further apart. Lastly does a $2K soundbar have the same audio sound quality as the in-wall speakers with larger drivers and enclosures?

I will be driving the setup using my existing Pioneer Elite LX502 and likely a ported 15" sub in the corner.

Thanks
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post #2 of 17 Old 05-24-2020, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I am build a new house and sadly the wife said I need a more elegant speaker solution. I was planning on going with a 5.1 setup with three in-wall speakers for the front and two ceiling speakers for the surrounds. I shared my plans with a friend who is in the business recommended I instead look at a passive soundbar for the front channels.

I don't have any experience with higher end soundbars, but most seem to have 3" or 4" drivers whereas the in-walls speakers from Triad and Definitive Technology I was previously looking at had 5.25" or 6.25" drivers. The room is large at 19'x15' and I am concerned if the soundbar can drive a room this size nor will it have the soundstage of in-wall speakers mounted further apart. Lastly does a $2K soundbar have the same audio sound quality as the in-wall speakers with larger drivers and enclosures?

I will be driving the setup using my existing Pioneer Elite LX502 and likely a ported 15" sub in the corner.

Thanks
In walls are what you should still consider.

Many AVS members are very happy with quality in wall speakers, there is no technical reason that if installed per manufacturer recommendations there is any downside vs "regular speakers" though they are harder to audition.

Soundbars are great for many people who have smaller rooms, aren't looking for "hi fi" or loud volume levels and don't have the ability or desire to look at in wall or on wall solutions.

https://www.audioholics.com/loudspea...-wall-speakers

Geoff A. J., California
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post #3 of 17 Old 05-24-2020, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I am build a new house and sadly the wife said I need a more elegant speaker solution. I was planning on going with a 5.1 setup with three in-wall speakers for the front and two ceiling speakers for the surrounds. I shared my plans with a friend who is in the business recommended I instead look at a passive soundbar for the front channels.

I don't have any experience with higher end soundbars, but most seem to have 3" or 4" drivers whereas the in-walls speakers from Triad and Definitive Technology I was previously looking at had 5.25" or 6.25" drivers. The room is large at 19'x15' and I am concerned if the soundbar can drive a room this size nor will it have the soundstage of in-wall speakers mounted further apart. Lastly does a $2K soundbar have the same audio sound quality as the in-wall speakers with larger drivers and enclosures?

I will be driving the setup using my existing Pioneer Elite LX502 and likely a ported 15" sub in the corner.
Rather than a passive soundbar, you could simply do three horizontal center speakers that could fit under your screen. In fact, 3 of them could easily serve as a TV riser if needed, since many TVs now have wide-apart feet.

Possible options:
  • Ascend 200SE, $150 ea.
  • Chane A2.4, $300 ea.
  • Emotiva C1, $250 ea. --- a 3 way design, which is often favored for horizontal centers
  • RSL CG23, $200 ea.
  • RSL CG25, $425 ea.

Ascend Duo, $2400 for 3 - I'd only do these if music listening is a significant part of your usage; the others would be more than ample for regular HT/TV usage, with the RSLs having the highest WAF esp. in white.

~ 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 #4 of 17 Old 05-25-2020, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
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I was sold on the in-wall, but using thee bookshelf speakers across the shelf is an interesting idea.

Does anyone have experience to back up the claim that modern highend soundbars "sound as good" as in-wall speakers and thus a soundbar is a simpler solution?
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post #5 of 17 Old 05-26-2020, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I was sold on the in-wall, but using thee bookshelf speakers across the shelf is an interesting idea.

Does anyone have experience to back up the claim that modern highend soundbars "sound as good" as in-wall speakers and thus a soundbar is a simpler solution?
I think you answered your own question in you initial post.

Putting equal quality drivers in a compact bar that is 3.5 feet wide vs having them in separate cavities spread 8 feet across a wall would not seem to be much of a contest to me.

There are high quality on wall solutions you might want to consider.

Available in black or white.

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_265S16...oss-White.html

Geoff A. J., California
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post #6 of 17 Old 05-26-2020, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Putting equal quality drivers in a compact bar that is 3.5 feet wide vs having them in separate cavities spread 8 feet across a wall
A slight exaggeration there, Geoff.
  • 3 x Ascend 200SE would only be 33" across.
  • 3 x RSL CG23 would be 48" across. A single CG23 plus two CG3 would be 34" across.

And so on...

Also, another key advantage of using 3 separate LCR speakers laid end to end is that if the OP ever moves and has the ability to mount the 3 speakers wider apart or use them as surrounds, he could do so easily instead of having to start all over again from scratch.

~ 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 17 Old 05-26-2020, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
A slight exaggeration there, Geoff.
  • 3 x Ascend 200SE would only be 33" across.
  • 3 x RSL CG23 would be 48" across. A single CG23 plus two CG3 would be 34" across.

And so on...

Also, another key advantage of using 3 separate LCR speakers laid end to end is that if the OP ever moves and has the ability to mount the 3 speakers wider apart or use them as surrounds, he could do so easily instead of having to start all over again from scratch.
I was referring to in wall or on wall with the left/right not the "normal" width apart.

Geoff A. J., California
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post #8 of 17 Old 05-26-2020, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
I was referring to in wall or on wall with the left/right not the "normal" width apart.
Ah, I misunderstood.

No argument there.

~ 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 17 Old 05-26-2020, 01:32 PM
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Both options can result in good sound, depending on your usage.

Bass will probably be superior with the in-walls, due to the larger drivers and the size of the wall cavity. There are a couple of caveats with in-wall speakers that you should be aware of before making your decision. First, the back of the speaker produces the same volume levels as the front of the speakers. Depending on the layout of your house, the building materials used, etc ... you could be exposing other rooms to a lot of noise. This will be more true with speakers with larger woofers, as deeper bass tends to propagate through buildings more easily. If you employ back boxes, this issue may become moot, depending on the solution used. Second, if you have a wide area of coverage, or sit very close to the front wall, there may be issues with sound coverage. Most speakers do well up to 30 degrees off axis (line perpendicular to the face of the driver), but once you go outside of the area covered by that angle, you risk losing frequencies, especially in the treble region. You can use angled tweeters to help to mitigate this issue, but even then, you are probably limited to a 45 degree coverage area in the direction of the angle and 15 degrees in the other direction. So, do the math for all your seating positions in the room, being careful to place the speakers where they will serve not only the folks seated centrally, but also those folks to the sides (this calculation often results in the speakers being placed far closer together than initially anticipated). Also, you will want these speakers placed at seated ear height.

Good quality passive soundbars have their place, and I have often recommended them to folks with major placement restrictions. Yes, you get a narrower sound stage and often the smaller drivers require a superior sub, capable of good mid-bass. However, it allows you to alter it's position after the fact, and can actually look nicer (attached to the bottom of the TV) than speaker screens in the wall (IMO). Triad and James can make your bar to order, for length and finish. Other high quality options would be had from Totem and Legacy.

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Last edited by RayGuy; 05-26-2020 at 10:21 PM.
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post #10 of 17 Old 05-27-2020, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I was sold on the in-wall, but using thee bookshelf speakers across the shelf is an interesting idea.

Does anyone have experience to back up the claim that modern highend soundbars "sound as good" as in-wall speakers and thus a soundbar is a simpler solution?
ABSOLUTELY

I do custom AV projects for a living and deal with a ton of different passive soundbar solutions. James & Leon make outstanding products. There's no practical difference between a really high quality soundbar and high quality on-walls. I actually prefer the look of the soundbar vs the very "2000s" look of 3 on walls. It's virtually the exact same thing, just positioned different in relation to the TV and more aesthetically pleasing (to most). There are soundbars that are made quite wide to get separation as well and some that aren't which .

Your issue is going to be the $2k price point for something with outstanding performance. It's either sub $1,000 for off the shelf stuff or a bit more of an investment. There's no middle ground in that market. Here's an example of one of the best soundbars on the market from James Loudspeaker that, with strong discounting, would come in at a bit under $2,500 (MSRP $3,700). This would be custom sized for you to whatever width you need. Awesome speaker. Not too long ago, I did one 105" under a projection screen that was on a wood paneled wall and it's killer (SEE PICS). There was no room beside the screen for speakers and, due to the staircase, in walls were a no go. The sound is absolutely big enough for that sized screen in a large open lower level. Home owner was thrilled.

NOTE: That soundbar is custom sized and can be made to fit under all sorts of TVs. This one was made very wide to match the projection screen.

Link to the product I'm referring to: SPLQ5LCR https://www.jamesloudspeaker.com/products/199
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post #11 of 17 Old 05-27-2020, 07:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate everyone's input. Based on the responses it appears there is three potential solutions to get decent sound quality for the front speakers:

  1. 3x In Wall Speakers: ~$1500
  2. 3x Center Speakers: ~$1000
  3. 1x Soundbar: ~$2500
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post #12 of 17 Old 05-27-2020, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I appreciate everyone's input. Based on the responses it appears there is three potential solutions to get decent sound quality for the front speakers:

  1. 3x In Wall Speakers: ~$1500
  2. 3x Center Speakers: ~$1000
  3. 1x Soundbar: ~$2500
Another very high performance on-wall would the Jamo D600 LCR. It's THX Ultra2 certified, under $700/ea MSRP (discounts can be had through dealers), and you mount 3 on wall under the TV. You would spread these out, though. 3' between them or more.

Totally underrated speaker. It's one of my favorite on wall speakers (I have used a ton from nearly a dozen manufacturers) and one of the best values in home theater. They sound awesome and are very reasonable. You could be at $1,500 or less for your front 3 very easily.

https://www.jamo.com/products/d600lcr
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post #13 of 17 Old 05-28-2020, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Need bb View Post
I appreciate everyone's input. Based on the responses it appears there is three potential solutions to get decent sound quality for the front speakers:
  1. 3x In Wall Speakers: ~$1500
  2. 3x Center Speakers: ~$1000
  3. 1x Soundbar: ~$2500
Seems like a no-brainer to me. #1 entails paying somebody to install (unless you DIY) which can easily add an extra $500 or more to the total pricetag. Plus you leave them behind when you move, a total loss.

If your budget max extends to $2500, I'd look at 3 x Ascend Duo LCR ... these are not only small and beautiful, but with their RAAL tweeters will give you top-of-the-line sound quality for both music and movies.

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages...s/duo/duo.html

Especially versatile should you have the opportunity to move to a bigger space in the future where you can spread them out like normal speakers. Unlike a soundbar where you're permanently condemned to mediocre sound for the sake of prettiness.

~ 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 #14 of 17 Old 05-28-2020, 11:43 AM
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Before deciding on a soundbar (or not), check out the options from Totem and Legacy.

It's a VIRTUAL channel unless stated otherwise.
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post #15 of 17 Old 05-28-2020, 12:36 PM
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It would be ill-advised to use 3 horizontal MTM speakers for the front LCR. There is a high probability of being off-axis of one, two or all three speakers depending on where you sit. Being off-axis of a horizontal MTM is not good because all MTM speakers will exhibit some degree of off-axis comb filtering and lobing. The following articles thoroughly describe these phenomena:
https://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=89614
https://www.audioholics.com/loudspea...peaker-designs
http://audiojudgement.com/speaker-lo...olar-response/

The only way to avoid lobing and CF with 3 horizontal MTM's in the LCR positions is to sit directly in front of the CC and aim the L & R speakers directly at the listening position. Then the LP will be on-axis of all 3 front speakers. But then it only works for one seat... the one the speakers are aimed at. At all other LP's, the listener will be off-axis to varying degrees of all the speakers.

It would be FAR better to use MTM's in their vertical orientation. That would send the CF and lobing towards the ceiling and the floor where it is less detrimental. If that's not possible, then the use of 3 identical bookshelf speakers is a FAR better arrangement. Even then, toe'ing them in may be a valid consideration. Most speakers with waveguides are better at wide horizontal dispersion which requires less toe-in.

Here's a system I designed for a friend that uses small powered bookshelf speakers with waveguides:



These speakers are less than $150 each AND they have the power amps built right in. If you can do something like that, you'll end up with a FAR better system, one that provides very similar sound to all the seating positions, than 3 horizontal MTM's across the front.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

Craig

Lombardi said it:
"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
My System (Edited Feb. 2020 to add 4K and Atmos updates)
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post #16 of 17 Old 05-30-2020, 07:57 PM
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I would second the recommendation to look at James and Leon. We had similar needs for our condo a few years ago and went with Leon after hearing both. They make models with woofers as large as 7”, and they are extremely customizable. Your wife may find additional elegance in a surround for the TV or custom colors as well. Both the soundbar and TV surround are precisely sized to fit your TV.

I went with a walnut surround for the TV, had their standard surround speakers modified to give me a bookshelf style, and chose a color for the surround speaker cloth that would give the pair a modern retro vibe. I even had them invert the speaker terminals on the surrounds to better fit the direction from which my wiring would feed.

I’m not fooling myself into thinking it compares to the custom theater we built in our prior home, but it sounds quite good for what it is. My wife and I are both very happy with the setup.
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post #17 of 17 Old 05-31-2020, 07:56 AM
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An elegant solution is the "flanking" set up from Artison USA - one of the pro's here mentioned that it was developed with James. Sonically capable is the report.
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