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Discussion Starter #1
Help me upgrade my home theater speakers. I'd like to keep the upgrade under $3,000.

My current system:
Fronts and Rears: Magnepan MMG W
Center: Magnepan MMG C
Current Subwoofer: Just upgraded to a HSU VTF3 mk5 HP and will likely add a 2nd after I confirm a few things (not part of this budget) .. it just arrived today
AV Receiver: Onkyo NR1007 (will likely upgrade this as well, but not part of this budget. Also might try out a Hypex N-Core amp)

Room Description: Non-dedicated home theater room … open floor plan basement where half is a kids play room and the other has a 120" projector

Room Size: ~4800 cubic ft. Roughly 31'x23'x7.4' with some bump ins and outs. Open staircase up to main floor (no door). Viewing area is roughly half the room.

The system will be 100% home theater movies/TV usage. My biggest nitpick with the MMG Ws and C is the complete lack of bass below 150 hz so rely heavily on the subwoofer(s).

If I it is acceptable to keep my rear MMG Ws, I could devote the entire budget to the front 3 speakers. Otherwise, the same $3k limit applies to LCR + rears.

I haven't paid much attention to speakers in the last 15 years so I have been trying to catch up lately with a lot of reading here and a few other forums. I am wide open to suggestions and realize that speakers can perform better/worse based on my specific room. I will likely audition a few different speakers but just don't even know where to start!

Here is a pic from main viewing couch. Ignore the old paradigm sub, the new VTF3 sub is currently in same location (laid on it's side) but might move around once I get it dialed in. The current MMG C in the center is 36"w x 9"h x 6"d for size reference. There is another couch perpendicular to the screen off-axis off to the left of this image.
 

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Current Subwoofer: Just upgraded to a HSU VTF3 mk5 HP and will likely add a 2nd after I confirm a few things (not part of this budget) .. it just arrived today

The system will be 100% home theater movies/TV usage. My biggest nitpick with the MMG Ws and C is the complete lack of bass below 150 hz so rely heavily on the subwoofer(s).
Hsu subs are famous for being extremely tuneable/customizable and for putting out lots of mid-bass which is what your MMGs are lacking...so I would first try my damndest to see if you can get your VTF-3 to fill in more of that midrange hole. You might want to shoot them an email and see if they can give you some pointers, or ask in the subwoofers forum for tuning tips. Subwoofer placement will be essential, so I'd recommend googling up how-to videos for "subwoofer crawl."

If that fails, you can easily do very well with even half of your $3K budget to get a 100% HT setup that's already supported by an excellent sub. These are some options I'd look into:

  • Ascend 340SE with OEM "tower-look" stands (sand fillable to 100lbs, very handy if child safety is a concern)
  • Chane A5.5
  • Emotiva T1s with C2 center
  • JBL Studio 580 and 530 (both are on sale at 60% off MSRP and free return shipping---I'd jump on this option first, frankly)
 
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Why do you want to upgrade? What is it about the current system that seems lacking?
 

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You are seriously lacking any mid-bass in your system.
If you want to keep your Maggies, than a pair of V.B.S.S. subwoofers tuned to be mid-bass modules can make a world of difference, allowing the HSU subs to do what they do best - the deep-tuned bass. You can come in WELL under your budget if you do this.
 

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@edpowers

btw, if you want to avoid the DIY labor of doing a VBSS midbass module, the Hsu ULS-15Mk has a MBM mode apparently...spending $800 is a lot cheaper than $3K! :)

If you put a ULS-15 right next to your main listening position and your current VTF-3 away in a corner, you should be able to get both the deep deep movie LFE and the mid-bass you've been missing with the Maggies, in spades.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Why do you want to upgrade? What is it about the current system that seems lacking?
The lacking mid-bass is the main reason.

2nd reason ... I've had my MMGWs for a long time and just wondering if there is something better out there 15 years later. I do have a sentimental attachment to the maggies since I grew up in the same town where they are made ... White Bear Lake, MN.

@edpowers

btw, if you want to avoid the DIY labor of doing a VBSS midbass module, the Hsu ULS-15Mk has a MBM mode apparently...spending $800 is a lot cheaper than $3K! :)

If you put a ULS-15 right next to your main listening position and your current VTF-3 away in a corner, you should be able to get both the deep deep movie LFE and the mid-bass you've been missing with the Maggies, in spades.
This is very interesting. I originally thought about going with dual ULS-15s but was warned that I wouldn't have enough output on the low end ... that pushed me to the VTF3. I guess I never considered going with one each and using the ULS 15 in the MBM mode. Maybe I'll give that a shot first ... thanks!
 

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@edpowers

btw, if you want to avoid the DIY labor of doing a VBSS midbass module, the Hsu ULS-15Mk has a MBM mode apparently...spending $800 is a lot cheaper than $3K! :)

If you put a ULS-15 right next to your main listening position and your current VTF-3 away in a corner, you should be able to get both the deep deep movie LFE and the mid-bass you've been missing with the Maggies, in spades.
To piggyback on Zorba's recommendation, I will take it a step further. Get 4 HSU subs, 2 VTF3 & 2 ULS15s put in each corner. Get the JBLs since on sale and you have yourself One Heckuva HT setup that will be a massive improvement.
 

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I originally thought about going with dual ULS-15s but was warned that I wouldn't have enough output on the low end ...
Let me guess: the person(s) who warned you is a regular on the AVS Subwoofers forums and runs 4 gazillion-watt, refrigerator-sized subs in their HT room? :D
 

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Let me guess: the person(s) who warned you is a regular on the AVS Subwoofers forums and runs 4 gazillion-watt, refrigerator-sized subs in their HT room? :D

I LOL'd on that one. Too true for sure. I'm working on resembling that remark, but it wasnt me,,,,yet ;)
 
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Discussion Starter #10
Let me guess: the person(s) who warned you is a regular on the AVS Subwoofers forums and runs 4 gazillion-watt, refrigerator-sized subs in their HT room? :D
YES! That forum is quite intimidating for a mere mortal such as myself. Like I said earlier, I've been out of the forums for a long time and the sub forum blew my mind. It's always been aggressive with dedicated hobbyists, which is great, but the weapons are decidedly more massive and deadlier these days! I said almost the exact same thing to a friend of mine ... 4x subs each bigger than my refrigerator in a 12' x 12' room! What the hell is going on here!

I remember back when the VTF-3 would have been considered a large sub. Somebody on the sub forums shared a pic of their VTF-15H next to their new PSA TV18 and the 15H looked like a little baby sub that comes with a Vizio soundbar. So I looked at the specs for the 15H and saw that it is 25 x 18 x 28. That's a bigger footprint than a dorm fridge. So I guess the big boys have graduated from college and moved on to the dual Sub-Zeros! :)
 

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It's a fact that ported subwoofers will have much greater output at their tuning frequency than a sealed sub. They also do better in larger rooms where you won't get as much room gain.
A Kef Q-series LCR would be great for your room. They have pretty good measurements and throw a wide soundstage. You won't have to worry about low mid-bass with them.
If you want to go the bookshelf route, you MIGHT be able to fit the Paradigm Prestige 15B/55C into your budget. I preferred them to the Kef R300 speakers.
 

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The lacking mid-bass is the main reason.

2nd reason ... I've had my MMGWs for a long time and just wondering if there is something better out there 15 years later. I do have a sentimental attachment to the maggies since I grew up in the same town where they are made ... White Bear Lake, MN.
Hard to know where to take this. Really, if you have any opportunity to go listen to speakers, that would be the best option. Otherwise you are just guessing. That said, I think there are a few options for you to consider.

First, have you considered larger maggies? Even the LRS will have more bass output than the MMGs. Of course, as you go up the food chain, you get more bass (and your wallet becomes lighter). If you otherwise love the Maggie sound (nothing else sounds quite like it), that would be my first consideration.

Second, stay in the ribbon family, but replace the mid-bass region with piston-type drivers for more output and attack. The Wharfedale EVO 4 series may be an option for you to explore. Other ribbon-type options from Ascend (RAAL), Legacy, Salk ... to name a few quality purveyors.

Third, look at a leaf tweeter, which possesses some similar qualities to ribbons. The clear choice in this area is Chane. Unfortunately, only the A5.5 is currently available, due to Corona issues.

Maggies are a harsh mistress. Once you've had her, all others seem vaguely unsatisfying ... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
@edpowers

btw, if you want to avoid the DIY labor of doing a VBSS midbass module, the Hsu ULS-15Mk has a MBM mode apparently...spending $800 is a lot cheaper than $3K! :)

If you put a ULS-15 right next to your main listening position and your current VTF-3 away in a corner, you should be able to get both the deep deep movie LFE and the mid-bass you've been missing with the Maggies, in spades.
I have been playing around with my VTF3 in various locations and I don't like what I'm hearing when I put it off to the side of the screen (next to the couch). I'm getting good results, but I am able to localize the sound. I have the crossover turned off on the sub and MultiEQ XT set to small speakers. I'm worried that placing a ULS-15 in MBM mode anywhere but the front will bug me if I can localize?

Hard to know where to take this. Really, if you have any opportunity to go listen to speakers, that would be the best option. Otherwise you are just guessing. That said, I think there are a few options for you to consider.

First, have you considered larger maggies? Even the LRS will have more bass output than the MMGs. Of course, as you go up the food chain, you get more bass (and your wallet becomes lighter). If you otherwise love the Maggie sound (nothing else sounds quite like it), that would be my first consideration.

Second, stay in the ribbon family, but replace the mid-bass region with piston-type drivers for more output and attack. The Wharfedale EVO 4 series may be an option for you to explore. Other ribbon-type options from Ascend (RAAL), Legacy, Salk ... to name a few quality purveyors.

Third, look at a leaf tweeter, which possesses some similar qualities to ribbons. The clear choice in this area is Chane. Unfortunately, only the A5.5 is currently available, due to Corona issues.

Maggies are a harsh mistress. Once you've had her, all others seem vaguely unsatisfying ... ;)
I would love to check out other Maggies, but I don't think my space will work well. I definitely cannot get them 3' or even 2' away from the wall. Even if my wife let me (which she wouldn't), the kids would destroy them. :)

What about the Emotivas? Don't they use a ribbon tweeter as well? Are they lacking in other areas? I have thought about ordering a C2+ center just to demo and see how it performs against my Maggie MMGC.

I'm also wondering about the Ascend Sierra Duo LCRs with RAAL. Any ideas on what return shipping would cost for 3x LCRs?
 

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I have been playing around with my VTF3 in various locations and I don't like what I'm hearing when I put it off to the side of the screen (next to the couch). I'm getting good results, but I am able to localize the sound. I have the crossover turned off on the sub and MultiEQ XT set to small speakers. I'm worried that placing a ULS-15 in MBM mode anywhere but the front will bug me if I can localize?

I would love to check out other Maggies, but I don't think my space will work well. I definitely cannot get them 3' or even 2' away from the wall. Even if my wife let me (which she wouldn't), the kids would destroy them. :)

What about the Emotivas? Don't they use a ribbon tweeter as well? Are they lacking in other areas? I have thought about ordering a C2+ center just to demo and see how it performs against my Maggie MMGC.

I'm also wondering about the Ascend Sierra Duo LCRs with RAAL. Any ideas on what return shipping would cost for 3x LCRs?
The ULS-15 is a compact sealed sub, which is ideal for music and MBM use, esp. with its MBM equalization setting. I think it would give you a very different result. The VTF-3 is a big, brute force triple-ported HT sub, designed to shake your walls during explosions...I would never recommend it as a nearfield mid-bass module.

The Emotivas are the best bang for the buck around (only beaten out by the JBLs and Infinities when on sale), and the C2 would be an excellent anchor for any HT setup. If you like to listen super loud, you can simply add a $600 Outlaw 5000 sub.

The RAAL tweeter in my opinion is only worthwhile if you do a lot of critical music listening and want the extra level of finesse/neutrality...for HT it would be unnecessary overkill.
 

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I have been playing around with my VTF3 in various locations and I don't like what I'm hearing when I put it off to the side of the screen (next to the couch). I'm getting good results, but I am able to localize the sound. I have the crossover turned off on the sub and MultiEQ XT set to small speakers. I'm worried that placing a ULS-15 in MBM mode anywhere but the front will bug me if I can localize?

I'm also wondering about the Ascend Sierra Duo LCRs with RAAL. Any ideas on what return shipping would cost for 3x LCRs?
This where having smaller dual subs make a big difference. Dual subs eliminates localization issues. In the meantime try setting a lower crossover if you're currently over 100hz, that could help.

As Zorba mentioned, paying a premium for Ribbon/Raal tweeters would make sense if you listen to a lot of music and not so much for HT use.
 

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Localization of the sub can occur for many reasons. First, the location is not good, producing huge peaks that stand out, making the sub noticeable. Another problem is the sub gain. Lots of folks like to crank up the sub after Audyssey has leveled it with the other speakers. When the gain is too great vs the rest of the sound, then the sub becomes noticeable. If you are sitting with your back up against a wall, that will cause all sorts of issues, including loud, thick, and muddy bass. Once again, drawing attention to the sub. If not up against a wall, certain seating locations in a room can engender poor bass response. Sometimes, just moving the couch 6" forward or backward can make a huge difference. If you are running the receiver with dynamic whatever turned on, or have equalized the sub for a house curve (or whatever you want to call exaggerated bass response), you get what you are getting. Crossing over too high can also be problematic. For some folks, the crossover needs be down around 60, although 80 is typically good enough. Using dual subs is often the cure for a room that just won't allow a single sub to integrate well .... but the integration to get it right is more arduous.
 

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I have been playing around with my VTF3 in various locations and I don't like what I'm hearing when I put it off to the side of the screen (next to the couch). I'm getting good results, but I am able to localize the sound. I have the crossover turned off on the sub and MultiEQ XT set to small speakers. I'm worried that placing a ULS-15 in MBM mode anywhere but the front will bug me if I can localize?



I would love to check out other Maggies, but I don't think my space will work well. I definitely cannot get them 3' or even 2' away from the wall. Even if my wife let me (which she wouldn't), the kids would destroy them. :)

What about the Emotivas? Don't they use a ribbon tweeter as well? Are they lacking in other areas? I have thought about ordering a C2+ center just to demo and see how it performs against my Maggie MMGC.

I'm also wondering about the Ascend Sierra Duo LCRs with RAAL. Any ideas on what return shipping would cost for 3x LCRs?
The Emotivas are a bargain, but the other options I mentioned are of better quality, IMO. That said, bang for buck wise, they are hard to beat (but you still have to look at them, which is your penance for saving a buck ... of course, with kids around, a beautiful speaker would probably not stay that way for very long, anyway). :eek:

No idea on Ascend return shipping charges (I'd contact them directly for that info and procedure). You could order just 1 as a center or 2 as a stereo pair, to minimize the return cost, instead of going all in on three to start.
 
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