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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm assembling the shopping list for my home theater and find myself spinning my wheels looking for speakers. I've settled on getting five identical bookshelf speakers along with a pair of subs to fill the sound in my fairly small and fully enclosed media room (about 1900 cubic feet, 12.5' wide by 17' deep by 8' tall).


I had posted some questions earlier and got useful feedback that point me in this direction. Now I'm trying to narrow down to specific speakers and it becomes an ever more frustrating path. My situation is less than ideal as my speaker placement is going to be low relative to the seating position and I'll have to plan to tilt the speaker upward toward the listening position, which will be about 10-11' back from the speaker faces.


I'm certainly willing to spend enough to get good sound, but don't want to waste money on something that won't make a sonic difference in my small space.


Which brings me to my latest Chinese hell - I see the HSU and Arx speakers running in the $150 - $200/speaker range. Great reviews, awesome testing! Results better than speakers costing 3 to 5 times more!


Then, there are the bookshelves from folks like SVS (Ultras) and Ascend (Sierra 1) in the $500/speaker range. Great reviews, awesome testing! Results better than speakers costing 3 to 5 times more! (yes, that was a copy/paste)


I'm probably going to order three speakers to test out the front sound stage from two, maybe three vendors. The winner sell me the two back channels and the losers go home.


But, even with generous return policies, That's still some pretty good cash going out the door at one time.


So, as I decide who to bring in for the audition, I have to wonder - what do the $500 speakers bring to the table over the $180 ones? Does it make sense to put three HSU HB-1 MK2 against three SVS Ultras? I'm tempted to do so to see if the Ultras offer enough improvement to send the HSU's back or if the HSU's are solid enough to send the Ultras packing.


These are all Internet Direct products, so I have some expectation that more of the prices charged for these speakers goes into the products compared to what I'll find at the stores. Which naturally makes me want to think that a $500 speaker should blow away a $180 speaker.


Which takes me back to the hell of ridiculous comparisons. Every review I read about all of these, whether here in forum posts or from "professional" reviews talks about how great they all are and how they sound like much more expensive speakers - though nobody ever calls out these more expensive speakers that get bested by whatever is being reviewed at the time.


So, while I'll gladly take any specific recommendations, I suppose I'm as much looking for a philosophy discussions as anything at this point.
 

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There are three main things that you get for your money when you upgrade to more expensive models of speakers:


1) More money is put into the rigidity and mass of the cabinet, which is a major performance factor. Better cabinets have less resonances, which means less distortion at certain frequencies.


2) Better quality drivers can handle more power with less distortion, and may have a more even response over their operating range.


3) The Inductors and capacitors in the crossover network will be specified to closer tolerances so that the crossover frequencies on both speakers of a pair match more closely with each other and with the driver characteristics. Closer component tolerances increase the cost of the component exponentially, so it is a major cost issue.


There are also other factors that improve as the cost goes up, but those 3 are the main ones IMO.


The bottom line to all that is more even frequency response, and most important, lower distortion.


At any given price level, though, there is good stuff and not so good. In general though, there are not many speakers for under $300 each that are all that great. The Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 and 10.2 are speakers that deliver very good quality for their price. Some people bad-mouth magazines and reviewers, but I have found that Stereophile and The Absolute Sound are pretty reliable, among others. They tend to tell it like it is. Beware of reviews that may be "canned" reviews, commissioned by the speaker manufacturer; look for well-known objective sources that are independent.


KEF, PSB, Whafedale, Focal, Vandersteen, and many other companies get good reviews from many experienced reviewers, even in their less expensive models, while others either get none or bad reviews. I have been very impressed by Focal and PSB speakers, and I currently have Vandersteen speakers (and love them).


When you have a hard time finding any reviews on a speaker, it usually means no one has anything good to say about them. Magazines avoid reviewing something when they know up front it is a dud.


On the other hand, occasionally a speaker will get reviewed and really ripped:


The worst review I have ever read was a Home Theater Review article on some fairly expensive Klipsch Reference RF-82 speakers; here's what was said-


"edgy and unnatural"


"shrill yet muky"


"lacked refinement and speed'


My jaw dropped when I read all that. I can't imagine anyone wanting any part of those speakers after reading that blast!


So...do as much research as you can and don't limit yourself to one or two brands if you want the best for your dollar.
 

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Everyone uses hyperbole to sell their speakers. I think many times with these exaggerations, some decent inexpensive speakers are compared to poor expensive ones. To wit: the blurb on Hsu's speaker page about besting a $350k Kondo system, whatever that is. I like the Hsu speakers, but if they are besting a $350k system, that system is a terrible value. If you really want to know if a $100 speaker performs as good as a $500 speaker, you will have to look at the measurements.


Anyway, if I were you, I would just order a pair of speakers to demo. That will give you a sense of the speaker's sound and save you the shipping on the center if you decide not to keep em.
 

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Ok, so perhaps I can be of some assistance as I have auditioned many many different speakers over the past couple of years. Everything from Klipsch, Paradign, B&W, Definitive Technology, Polk, Chase, HSU, Salk Sound, Ascend Acoustics, as well as many different DIY designs such as the Statement monitors to the Seos designs.


There are so many choice from the ID manufactures, and yes, I feel like pretty much all of the ID stuff is dollar for dollar better than any of the commercial stuff at the moment. I think that this will all come down to your preferred usage, ie: will these be for 100% theater usage, music, or a combo of both? In your small room I think a bookshelf speaker would be great!


If you are mostly doing this for theater, the Chase, and HSU speakers are great, although I did not like them for music. Of all of the bookshelf speakers that I have auditioned, I like my RAAL equipped Sierra-1's the best. I think they do great for theater usage in a small room such as yours and mine, and they are also excellent for music, even without the RAAL or NRT tweeter upgrades.,but, if it were me, I would not do 5 identical Sierra-1's as I believe you can get far better performance by going with the Sierra-1 Left + Right speakers and a Horizon with the RAAL center, and then some of the cheaper CBM-170's for surrounds. That would be a hell of a setup and would absolutely blow you away! Sometime down the road you can add a pair of nice subs. I personally don't buy commercial or ID subs as it is too easy to build your own for better performance at 1/4 the price. If you have any questions or need some advise/help, feel free to PM me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yea, I probably should have mentioned - this room will be probably 95% video - movies mostly, but some major TV events along with some gaming. So, that does narrow things down in that I'm not looking for more music oriented speakers and I'm also going in with the plan that the subs will carry all the below 80Hz action along with that. So, given the small space contraints, I think getting some decent bookshelf speakers fits well.


Just getting two of each speaker is certainly an intriguing thought. I figured cutting down to three to get the front soundstage would be a good test condition, but I imagine I could try pairs of speakers and run a center phantom mode. That would make it easier to try out three different brands before I make the final comittment. At this point, I am expecting the speakers to be the last items I put in the room.


I see that the SVS and Ascends come in about about 20lbs each. The Arx is about 17lbs, while the HSU is the lightweght of the bunch at 14lbs
 
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