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Analysis paralysis-Rocket,CSW or Paradigm

1255 Views 14 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Tweakophyte
I purchased a rear projection widescreen in September and have been researching receivers and 5.1 systems for the past 4 months. I now have analysis paralysis and need some input to narrow the speaker field. System will be used 30% music and 70% HT; room is a family room that is doubling as a HT; the room is large-18’ x 25’ with 14’ cathedral ceilings. TV is centered on the 25’ wall with viewing on the opposite wall. I don’t have a specific budget. I want to spend a little as possible to get a good system. I would love to get the entire 5.1 system (excluding receiver) for around $1,500.

After reading hundreds of threads in this and other forums, I know there is no “best†5.1 system but I believe there are 2-3 strong contenders given the above factors. My current thinking and some questions are as follows:

Cambridge Soundworks Newton MC 200: Sounded good to me in the store, price is right and I can get 35% off of list due to a connection ($850 total cost after discount). Problem is that I see very little discussion on CSW in the forums and not sure if their speakers are generally perceived to be inferior to my other choices. Also, if CSW is good stuff, I may need to upgrade to a better package.

Paradigm Monitor 9 Series: Liked the sound but I was not blown away. Price including 10†sub and 2 Titans for rears is $1,500. The fullness of front towers was much greater than front bookshelfs so Ive decided that I really need towers for the fronts especially considering the size of my room. Will this package be suitable for a room my size? Other considerations/issues?

Rocket package #6 (includes 550 towers) at cost of $1,500 without a sub. Have not heard the 5.1 system but it gets good reviews and I can return it if I do not like the sound so not a lot of risk as far as I’m concerned. My problem is that if I like the setup, I need to spend $400-$500 for a sub so my total cost is $2,000 which is pushing the limits with the wife. Also, I know HT speakers should have timber match with the fronts and preferably the rears but do I need to be concerned about matching timber to a particular sub?

I also considered Aperion but I hate the fact that they don’t have a solid center. I also see Ascend and Axiom testaments quite a bit so they could come into play but most interested in feedback related to the above choices and the questions noted on each.

The information on this forum is great. Thanks to all who educate those of us who are technically challenged.

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a suggestion...if you are thinking about trying the rockets in your home, i suggest just ordering up the 200 center channel first and trying it out. for a 70% HT system, you should get the best center channel in your budget. take the 200 around to the other shops and compare it to the other center channels that you are considering. this will allow you to make direct a/b comparisons in the same room using the same gear that you otherwise wouldn't be able to make.

if it turns out that you like the rockets best, then order up the rest of the package. i know others have done this so give sean or steve a call to see if they'll allow you to do this...if you like one of the others better, shipping just a center channel back won't cost much at all.

good luck...
Md Dog- I have corresponded with the AV123 guys and they have been very helpful with me basic questions. Not sure if it changes your recommendation but the package with the 200 center is really more than I want to spend. More problematic is the fact that my tv is too thin to place a center on top so the center needs to go in front of the tv and my Bello stand will not accomodate the dimensions or weight of the 200 center along with the tv.

Is the 100 center a significant downgrade from the 200 center? Never had HT so anything is going to sound better than current setup but I'd be dissapointed if the 100 center was the weak link in the system. Lastly, how about my ? on matching timber in the bass to the other speakers-is that an issue?

HI Sul. If you are thinking rockets and don't want to go with the 200 you may want to look at the ELT system. I was talking to the guys at Onix when I ordered a center (The 200) and the stated that their best HT system besides one based on the 200 is the ELT. They said the ELT center will outperform the 100 center. In fact I think they mentioned they may even discontinue or rework the 100 due to the performance of the ELT center.

I got the 200, as a reference I had a paradigm CC-370 and once I got through a few wiring issues, the performance is steller. It is big, I just made a stand for it today, but worth it IMO.

I was very nervous about purchasing speakers without hearing them but glad I gave them a chance they are great. And the finish on these is amazing. THey are very beautiful speakers.
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I'm going to wear two hats in this response.

First of all, I have recently purchased the Rocket #2 package and am very happy with the speakers. I strongly recommend that you audition a set of them if you can (that's what I did).

Secondly, since av123 is an Internet-direct company, the only buyers of its speakers are Internet users. These users, like me, tend to frequent forums like this one. Therefore, you're more likely to get responses from Rocket owners than from Paradigm owners although there are a lot more Paradigm owners out there.

If you can't audition the ELT speakers, you can go the route of having them delivered and return them if you're not happy. The risk with this approach is the shipping costs. However, my guess is that you will be happy.

Thanks for the suggestions on the ELT. I've generally heard very good things about the ELT. Hometheatersound.com has an upcoming review on the ELT system and I'm very interested to get the unbiased review.

A couple of things that concern me about the ELT system: 1) it seems like it may not be robust enough to fill my large room. 2) when I listened to the Paradigms, I noticed a big difference when using bookshelfs for fronts versus Monitor 9 towers for fronts. Thus, I'm really leaning towards towers and the ELT fronts just seem so small. 3) ELT just increased in price by $100 last week. I looked on AudioEnvy and nobody close to me with any rockets so I'll just adsorb the shipping if I go that route.

I've been doing some research today on the Axiom EPIC 50 system which can be had or $1,567 so I may order these and eat the shipping if don't like and need to return.

I've had no feedback on my Cambridge Soundworks option. Are these a cut below the rest. One thing I definatelt like about hte Axiom and Rocket is the refined look which adds to the WAF.
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I started out with a $1600 budget for speakers (total of $3000 for audio, $1600 speakers, $800 receiver, $600 cables and audio rack). However, without going into a long story, I ended up getting the Rocket #2 package (more than $1600). I don't regret spending more than I had originally planned.

If you can stretch to get the Rockets, I think you'll be happy.

As far as the 200 is concerned, I'm sure there are some creative solutions you could come up with to find it a home. If not, I'm sure if you posted on av123's forum, the members there would have some suggestions.
Originally posted by sullly11
Lastly, how about my ? on matching timber in the bass to the other speakers-is that an issue?

Sully - low frequency sounds do not need to be timbre matched. I'm not sure if it can to be honest with you. If you check out most of the forum members systems on this site, you'll find they use SVS or HSU - there are better subs out there, but from what I have read on here you would have to mortgage your home to get them. Don't scrimp on the Sub either - IMO an HT is not an HT unless you can 'feel' the action on the screen. I'm sure a lot of posters on here will recommend the SVS - I would have gone that route personally but they're too much of a pain to get it up here in Canada - and the Paradigm PW2200 which I ended up getting is a fantastic sub for the price.
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I drove to a friend's house yesterday and I must say the Axioms sounded great. The finish is not as nice as the Paradigm's finish but I'll sacrifice finish for saving some $ and getting good sound.

Any other speaker suggestions and can someone tell me why there is almost no feedback in this forum about Cambridge Soundworks? Is CSW considered just a step up from the dreaded Bose?
I'd second KPT_Krunch:

Even users with tower speakers usually have subs. Even if the tower fronts can reach as low as a sub would in your budget, placement issues are more easily solved with one or two subs. You'll want the sub(s) where there are the fewest peaks and valleys in the bass response (so it's "flat") for the most of your audience. Granted, there will always be a sweet spot, so compromises abound.

Secondly, note that when timbre matching fronts to surrounds, the Titan is not matched to the Monitor 9. A better match would be the Mini Monitor. Or perhaps you'll look at their adapted dipole speakers for side surrounds?
I'm thinking that you're not going to hear much about the CSW speakers here, sully. I always thought of those as computer speakers; I'm not familiar with other product lines. Given the lack of anyone else responding, I'd think the same.

I have a rocket sub, and would consider upgrading other bits of the HT if/when I decide to move from the b&w's I have (or just move those 603s to the back, the 601s to a nice stereo setup somewhere else, and sell the center). I heard them at Mad Dogs, and really liked them in comparison. Of course, he had really nice amps to accompany, so it might not be a trivial upgrade :)

for the center stand, why not just use a stool? I have an old chair from ikea acting as my center support. $10, designed to hold a person, I doubt that the 200 center weighs more than 200 pounds. I say a stool because then you don't have to worry about balancing the thing if the chair isn't deep enough; that is a large, large center.
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I will chime in for CSW. If you are looking at a sub sat combo, I think they are one of the best values out there. I have the MC300's with a P500 sub. I have not compared them to the speakers you are evaluating, but did extensive comparisons to Energy, Definitive Technologies, Polk, M&K and to my ears they were the clear winner for both movies and music. I also like that CSW has a terrific upgrade policy (if you go to one of their stores). Within one year you can get 100% value on your purchase, and every year after that you can get a % of your purchase price towards an upgrade.

I dont think that anyone else makes a a tower speaker at $450/pair that can compare to CSW's Tower II's. They are a good value, especially if you buy their B-stock from one of their factory stores.
Just when I thought CSW was out of the running.......... I guess I'll need to reconsider the direction in which I was heading. Thank you all for the input. My paralysis may continue for another couple of weeks.
If your paralysis continues you can save up more money for a nicer set. And who know what speakers might be coming out in the next few months?
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