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Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

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MWmetalhead
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Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by MWmetalhead » Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:18 pm

Man oh man, over the past week, I've dived head first into the world of home theater speaker shopping. I've learned quite a bit during that brief time.

First, on various audiophile web sites and even on mainstream web sites (Amazon, Best Buy, etc.), I've noticed HTR speaker connoisseurs prepare user reviews with such detail and articulation that they look every bit as good as an article one might read in an electronics magazine. I could not believe the number of amateur reviews I found online that exceeded five full, extremely detailed paragraphs! :eek

Second, I've quickly learned the difference between "warm," "neutral," and "bright" speakers. Warm speakers offer less detail on high-end treble and have a smoother & more subdued sound overall. They also usually offer relatively good bass response. Bright speakers have a tendency to emphasize high-end treble, sometimes to the point of annoyance.

Speakers with soft cone tweeters generally offer a neutral or warm sound; those with a hard dome or horn tweeter are "bright."

Third, I sorta learned about speaker impedance. This seems to be a murky area, because speakers do not draw consistent power levels; the level varies. I've noticed a number of mainstream speakers on the market that are rated for "6 ohms" (less impedance = generally higher power use) and others rated for "8 ohms." I honestly do not know which is better. A number of high end ($$$) speakers are even rated 4 ohms.

Fourth, I learned there are a bazillion different speaker brands out there, with a massive range of price points! Klipsch,
Sony, Polk, Elac, Q Acoustics, Bose, Martin Logan, Wharfedale, SVS, KLH, etc., etc. One can spend as little as $125 or as much as several thousand dollars on a pair of bookshelf speakers. GOOD LORD!

Last but not least - I learned that a TON of retailers are offering big time discounts - in many cases 50% - on numerous
models of speakers from some pretty highly regarded brands right now. Best Buy, Crutchfield, ABT and in some cases, Amazon, all have speakers deeply discounted.

So, how is all of this applicable to me?

Well, a week ago I bought Klipsch reference series R-51M bookshelf speakers on sale for $125 for the pair. These were going in my living room, which is configured in a way where I have limited space for speakers on the floor (not enough width on either side of my entertainment center for a floor standing speaker tower). I initially picked these because (i) I found a lot of positive reviews from consumers, (ii) I liked the looks of them and (iii) I read they reproduce electric guitar particularly well.

I ultimately returned them. Why? Because upper-mid and high treble frequencies were difficult to control. On my Yamaha RX-V683, vocals sounded boxy & a bit distorted. I could not correct that issue without bastardizing the entire upper half of the sound spectrum.

I also learned that some audio receivers have "warm" versus "bright" tendencies. Denon receivers - which seem to be highly regarded - are often described as outputting a "warm" sound. Ditto for Marantz. Yammies (also highly regarded) are neutral to bright. Not sure about Onkyo, Pioneer or Sony; I saw lots of comments regarding Onkyo but cannot recall what the consensus was.

So, I replaced my Klipsch bookshelves with Elac Debut 2.0 Series B6.2 speakers. I guess they are called "Debut 2.0" because this is the second series of speakers developed for Elac by some dude named Andrew Jones who I guess was well respected in audiophile circles during his time at Pioneer.

I bought the Elacs at Best Blah for $149 last night (Crutchfield is also selling them for that price until 11/26). These were commonly described as neutral to slightly warm. They are also about 3/4" wider, perhaps 1.5 inches taller, and a couple inches deeper. Before I added my sub, I already noticed an improvement! Sound has more fullness using these versus the Klipsch speakers. They are also rated for greater average power than the Klipsch R-15Ms - 120 watts vs. 85 watts. BUT, I still noticed an issue with speech. However, the issue was most noticeable in my leftover Yamaha surround & center channel speakers of 2006 vintage.

So, enter the subwoofer! This was a Klipsch R-10SWi wireless sub rated for 150 watts average / 300 watts peak power. I bought it from ABT for $225 (regular price is $449).

Spec sheet:
https://f072605def1c9a5ef179-a0bc3fbf18 ... -Sheet.pdf

I friggin' love the thing!!! It comes with a wireless transmitter; the receiver is built inside the sub itself. The wireless transmitter is comparable in size to a Google chromecast device and has a small cord that plugs into the "LFE out" jack of your receiver. No pairing, no WiFi setup, no NOTHING is required! It works straight out of the box! Just need to make sure the subwoofer is enabled in your home theater receiver configuration settings.

The sub is powered, of course, so you do need to plug into an electrical outlet.

The thing is OUTRAGEOUSLY powerful. If you turn the crossover dial to, say, 150 Hz, configure your HTR for same, and turn the gain knob up just 60% of the way, it puts out enough bass to rattle the windows of the house. :horns

I re-ran the YPAO auto speaker setup on my Yamaha HTR after placing the subwoofer in my living room (It wanted to decrease output to the sub by a full 10 dB!!! LMAO. I changed that to -4 dB). With the crossover set at 120 Hz and the subwoofer gain knob just short of the 11 AM position, it sounds quite nice.

BTW, when I re-ran YPAO (I believe Denon has a similar technology called Audyssey), it turns out I wasn't sending enough power to my center & surrounds. Those were boosted by about 7 dB each.

I'm still using my surrounds & center speaker of 2006 vintage, and those sound pretty decent now. The whole system now sounds to my liking. Not a particularly wide soundstage, but the music sounds clear yet powerful and lower-end bass now has respectable (but not absurdly high) boom & punch.

I am probably going to add the Elac debut 2.0 C6.2 center channel speaker to my assortment. That's on sale right now for $139. The thing is massive but will fit my space fine and comes from the same series as the Elac bookshelf speakers I purchased for $149.


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by audiophile » Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:13 pm

Yes a mini-documentary for sure.


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by MWmetalhead » Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:28 pm

I got bored. What else can I say? :)

I pulled the trigger on the Elac debut series 2.0 C6.2 center speaker. I ordered from Crutchfield; it should arrive Tuesday or Wednesday. The thing is BIG. I would've preferred the slightly smaller C5.2, but for some reason, that one was not discounted. I wasn't going to spend $60 more simply to save 3 inches' width of table space.

For compact surround speakers, I've considered Polk, Q Acoustics, SVS (prime series), KLH (Ames series), Wharfedale, and Cambridge. I've decided my Yammies need to go. I removed the grill cover and was reminded of how terribly dinky the tweeters in those things are! They look to be made of hard material - some kind of plastic? - to boot. No wonder treble reproduction stinks so bad!

The guru at Crutchfield told me the SVS has a hard dome tweeter, and as such, would probably not match well with my Elac bookshelves. Too bad; the dimensions of their compact speaker were perfect.

The cabinet of the Polks looks cheapy and even a bit unsightly, but users of the product seem pretty happy with the sound. They do have a soft dome tweeter, which is what I want. Just not convinced they would look good. Size wize, the dimensions are nearly perfect for what I need, though.

I learned that KLH came back on the market in 2018 after about a 10-year absence. Evidently, someone bought the IP and relaunched the company. Design & looks wise, they look to be a more aesthetically pleasing version of the SVS. Afraid to pull the trigger on these since they have an Aluminum tweeter. The online review at Crutchfield describes high reproduction as "non-fatiguing," but I'm a skeptic. Also have no idea what type of receiver he was using.

I read too many unflattering reviews of Wharfedale to consider them.

So, it's likely going to be a choice between Cambridge (SX-50 black) vs. Q Acoustics (3010 black) for me. Both are regularly priced at $199.99. Hoping one of these goes on sale during Cyber Monday.


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by MWmetalhead » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:26 pm

So, my final choice for satellite surrounds was...
NONE OF THE ABOVE!! :hat

I was very close to pulling the trigger on the Cambridge Audio SX-50s. About an hour ago, I came across DefTech (Definitive Technology)ProMonitor 800s. Normally, these would be about $270 a pair, but they are currently on special for $198 a pair. The specs looked really good to me. Not a fan of the glossy black finish, but these speakers are half circle shaped and none of the glossiness is visible on the front side of the speaker.

User review scores, depending on site, generally range from 4.3 to 4.8 out of 5 stars. The very fussy CNET rated them a 4.0, which isn't bad at all for a budget grade speaker.

The Crutchfield advisor with whom I spoke had 'em in his house and enthusiastically recommended them over the Cambridges. He said they should get along very well with my ELACs.

Found some Boston Acoustics speakers from a few years ago - but in brand new condition - at accessories4less.com (I believe that's the URL) for $119 per pair. However, those have a glossy black bezel on the front, which won't work for me. If they were matte black, I would've scooped them up in a heartbeat.


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by FET-500 » Sun Dec 16, 2018 4:23 pm

I'd take a look at used gear. It is still really tough to beat a NHT Super Zero and you can often get them for $100 on ebay.

https://www.stereophile.com/standloudsp ... index.html



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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Thu Dec 20, 2018 12:03 am

I always buy my speakers from a guy selling 'em out of a white van in some parking lot.... :eek

Seriously, I hope you enjoy your purchase. Kitting out a audio system can be exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Back before I trashed my hearing from sitting in edit rooms for hours and hours with the monitors far louder than they need be, I had great fun chasing great audio systems. It can be a real rabbit hole and depending how deep you go it can be consuming both in terms of time and money. Had I looked at this thread earlier I would have offered they simple advise of trust your ears.

BTW - In addition to warm, neutral and bright, I glad you also got schooled in the term "soundstage". As you've leaned it refers to the 'openness' of how 'spacial' the audio is presented to you. In my mind, the second (behind the warm etc. coloring) most importation thing in speakers and applicable from $20K electrostatic panels to the lowly earbuds jacked into your phone.



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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by MWmetalhead » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:24 am

Thanks, Lester.

I will say one area where the Klipsch R-51Ms outperform the Elac Debut 2.0 Series B6.2 bookshelves is soundstage & imaging. They simply sounded more multi-dimensional than the Elac speakers.

The soundfield from the Elac bookshelves is steady & relatively centered.

If I had a Denon receiver where the high end is more tapered, I probably would've been quite happy with the Klipsch speakers.

Some interesting comments here:
https://www.reddit.com/r/hometheater/co ... _question/

For those looking to change out speakers or to redo their full home theater audio system, definitely LISTEN to as many speakers as possible beforehand! That was a rookie mistake I made in the early going. Try to find bricks & mortar stores that specialize in home audio (yes, they are few & far between these days), or find a Best Buy that still has a Magnolia room.

Best Buy's de-emphasizing of home audio equipment in many of its stores is disappointing. The Southfield store on Telegraph Rd, just north of 696, still has a very nice Magnolia room. I could've sworn the Madison Heights store once had one, but when I last visited that store, it appeared to be in the middle of a renovation, and I was disgusted to see that the Magnolia room was gone!!!


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by Bryce » Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:20 pm

Brick and Mortar and a veritable audiophile playground.

https://www.paulsonsav.com/


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by MWmetalhead » Thu Dec 20, 2018 7:41 pm

I sold the Elacs just a little short earlier.

After switching my HTR to "straight" output mode (2.1 channel, essentially) and tweaking the equalizer settings a bit, the spatial effect sounds a bit better.


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Re: Home theater system speakers - a mini-documentary!

Post by FET-500 » Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:48 pm

Lester The Nightfly wrote:
Thu Dec 20, 2018 12:03 am
I always buy my speakers from a guy selling 'em out of a white van in some parking lot.... :eek


You know, for a day I was one of those "White Van" people.... Mostly Ginsu knives and laser enhanced photos and a long time ago.

I'm dead serious about used gear though. Audiophiles are obsessive weirdos who flip gear all the time. You can buy "auditioned" speakers, amps and even cables.
By the time a hard-core audiophile gets to the point where they're sitting in the dark with a triode amp and a single Lowther, they've dumped a lot of stuff.

I'm not talking about junk...



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