Budding Audiophile Seeks Speaker Guidance--Details Inside

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Kyle_Hughes, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Kyle_Hughes

    Kyle_Hughes Auditioning

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    Hello and thank you for taking the time to read this thread. I am new to the world of quality home theater audio and am currently trying to decide on a speaker brand. I have demoed several brands so far and, thankfully, have been able to rule a few out. I have spent many weeks learning what I can on my own, but am now at the point where I need the advice of more experienced audiophiles to guide me. I have a 12x12 living room with a 54" Panasonic VT25. The system will be used for somewhere around 70% movies and 30% music. Movies are my primary concern, but I would like for it to sound good on music as well. After all, the music in film soundtracks is an essential element of the viewing experience. The system will start as a 5.1, due to limited space at this time, but will eventually become a 7.1 when we move in a few months. I will have a separate, powered sub, and have not determined which brand it will be yet, although I'm looking at the $500 price range for it. Additionally, again, due to space limitations, I will need to go with bookshelf speakers for the fronts. As for the two rear channels, my couch is up against the wall in the back of the room and really cannot be moved, so I'm unsure of the speaker type and placement that I should go with. Everything will be powered by the Onkyo 3008. From Magnolia's offerings, I was able to narrow things down to B&W and MartinLogan. As for the B&W, I listened to the 685B fronts with an HTM61B center channel. For the MartinLogans, I listened to the Motion 4s in front with a Motion 8 center channel. My findings may give you an idea of my personal preference and help you steer me in the right direction. I found the B&W to give a pretty good sound, with dialogue quality being its high point for me. The dialogue was clear, though just a little unnatural-sounding. As for the MartinLogans, the dialogue was good, but not as clear as the B&W. Dialogue clarity is very important to me because, due to a minor hearing problem, I sometimes have trouble understanding the occasional word or words when there is an ambient sound of some sort playing at the same time. The MartinLogans actually offered something important to me as well, which was emphasized during a particular sound effect. The demo being used was Tron: Legacy, and there is a part in the first bike scene when one bike jumps over the other in slow motion. With the B&Ws, I heard the sound of the bike, and it was fine. With the MartinLogans, however, I could not only hear the sound as part of the film, I could "feel" it, as if the bike actually was nearby. It was a very natural sound for a bike, though, and not overdone at all. What I really need is the best of both worlds here--a system that will give me very natural and clear dialogue, as well as giving me a balanced and as-intended punch on sound effects that call for it. I would like to stress that, just as I'm not interested in anything underdone or overly-restrained, I also don't want anything overdone or unnatural. Budget-wise, I'm looking to stay in the range of the aforementioned speakers, so basically around $1500 total for the fronts, center, and two surrounds. I could probably manage just a bit more if necessary. The other brands that are available for me to demo within a "fairly reasonable" driving distance are NHT, Paradigm, KEF, Boston Acoustics, PSB, and Monitor Audio. Would any of these brands be good choices for my personal preferences and requirements? Would any of them absolutely not be? Any that I could exclude would be helpful since I live in the middle of nowhere and am looking at a 300-mile trip to several cities just to demo these few brands. Thank you so much for any help and advice you can give. I'm holding off on watching many of my favorite films until I get the system installed and I'm so excited to be closing in on the final steps!!
     
  2. winniw

    winniw Second Unit

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    Those are all potentially excellent choices. The important thing here is for YOU to hear them. That's a lot of driving, but I would view it as an adventure, and that would make it more fun. Personally, I would totally enjoy the process and in the mean time, try a couple of new restaurants along the way!


    There is no better way to make a selection than to hear these for yourself. I feel that you would be doing yourself an injustice if you don't. If you decide to make the trip, I would love to hear your analysis of what you heard and what you finally chose for your system.
     
  3. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    I would audition things with movies and music that you are familiar with on a system for a bit (yours or someone you know). You also never really know how things are adjusted in a store, particularly in multi-channel (lot harder thank just 2-channel music where you can focus on the left and right). There are also brands that sell direct to the public (vs. going through a distribution chain) and therefore if you're comfortable buying that way (some have in-home auditions) then it could be a better value for the money. Remember with regard to bookshelf speakers that stands are not free and can make a difference. A floorstander with a small footprint might also be a consideration. By all means listen to lots of things as you will be living with them.
     
  4. Kyle_Hughes

    Kyle_Hughes Auditioning

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    Thank you for your input. Winniw, I definitely want to hear them first. I can't stomach the possibility of buying them and thinking I could've had better every time I hear a weak sound effect or muddy dialogue. Phil, can you point me in the direction of some information regarding the advantages of placing bookshelf speakers on stands? If I can use them "on the shelf" for now and possibly set them on stands after the move for better quality, that's really something I'd be interested in.
     
  5. winniw

    winniw Second Unit

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    When you put speakers on a shelf, you can get some resonance from the shelf which colors the sound. You can also get edge diffraction from the shelf, which scatters the high frequencies in odd directions, throwing off both the coherence and imaging.

    Stands can color the sound but usually not nearly as much as a shelf. When speakers are placed on stands, it should be such that the top plate of the stand does not project outward from under the speaker. This eliminates edge diffraction.
     
  6. winniw

    winniw Second Unit

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    Phil makes a very good point about taking music with you. It is important to hear the same pieces on all of the speakers that you are auditioning. Yes, there is a difference in all of the systems and rooms that you will hear them in but the speakers are the larger part of the diffference. If you are listening to something that you have never heard before, or listen to different music on each set of speakers, then there is really NO way to compare them.


    Take something that you have listened to for a long time on your current system, and take a variety of music with you, e.g. take a Rock CD, a Classical CD and a Jazz CD. Also, take a movie with you too, for the dialogue test.
     
  7. theresme1

    theresme1 Stunt Coordinator

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    I too was at magnolia and had to decided on the Motion 4 or the B&W. My choice wasn't between the Motion 4 and the 685B, but it was between Motion 4 and the B&W CM5. I ended up purchasing the CM5 a much more expensive speaker than the Motion 4. Let me tell you though that it wasn't an easy decision. Luckily, Magnolia had the Motion 4 and the CM5 in the same room for me to audition. I first listened to the Motion 4 and it was awesome what these speakers could do. Only thing I had a gripe about with the Motion was the way it looked, so I decided just for fun to audition the CM5 because I love the way it looked. Of course with the CM5 price tag being more than double the price of the Motion 4 it sounded better. Let me tell you though that my decision of buying the CM5 was not an easy one. If the CM5 was a 10 for speakers than the Motion 4 would be like a 8.5 or maybe even 9 for speakers. Again I did not audition the 685B, but I think you get a really good bang for the buck with the Motion 4. I ended up buying the Motion 4 to use for my rear speakers.
     

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