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Speaker selection for home theater (watch movies) vs. home audio (listening to CDs)


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#1 of 17 Tim_Wetzel

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Posted February 20 2009 - 04:27 AM

I'm slowly putting together a budget system that will eventually be used for home theater. But my primary purpose for this project is for a high-end audio system so I can listen to my jazz and classical music in my home.

I see a lot of "home theater surround sound" sets that include two front, two rear, a center, and a powered sub.

My question is if this is really optimal for an exceptional music listening experience?

The reason I ask is this; when I listen to music, I choose to have a front stage only since that's the way the music would be performed. So, with these surround sound setups that seem to have relatively small speakers (maybe a 6" and a tweeter), if I shut off all but the front speakers is that going to give me the sound I want to fill a living room with vaulted cielings? Or should I be looking something with more substantial front speakers?

I was eyeing that Audax diy kit that would have me build 4 surrounds and 1 center. I'm just not sure if that's what I should be putting in my house given the primary purpose of the system.

Thoughts?

Tim

#2 of 17 Robert_J

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Posted February 20 2009 - 04:49 AM

My DIY speakers have a 6.5" midbass and a 1" silk dome tweeter. When listening to music I use my two mains and my sub. It is more than enough to fill a 16x25 room. In fact it is loud enough to hear all over the house even with the door closed. I am using the mid/tweeter version of the DIII. I'm in the process of building DIII's for my left/center/right front stage. My sub uses dual 15" drivers and a pro amp.

-Robert

#3 of 17 LanceJ

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Posted February 20 2009 - 06:43 AM

For music, my personal view is to use front mains with at minimum a 6.5" woofer, no matter what size the room is. IMO this helps make sure their is no audible decrease in sound quality around the standard 80Hz crossover point to a subwoofer, which I believe happens when using satellites with one 3 or 4 inch woofer. The larger woofer also makes it easier to blend such sats with a sub.

As far as bass output, most speakers I've heard with a 6.5" woofer do a good job of providing that in the "typical" living room, but it won't really be "feelable", especially for most rock & pop music, so IMO those genres can lose quite a bit of the artist's intended emotional impact.

#4 of 17 Tim_Wetzel

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Posted February 20 2009 - 06:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
For music, my personal view is to use front mains with at minimum a 6.5" woofer, no matter what size the room is. IMO this helps make sure their is no audible decrease in sound quality around the standard 80Hz crossover point to a subwoofer, which I believe happens when using satellites with one 3 or 4 inch woofer. The larger woofer also makes it easier to blend such sats with a sub.

As far as bass output, most speakers I've heard with a 6.5" woofer do a good job of providing that in the "typical" living room, but it won't really be "feelable", especially for most rock & pop music, so IMO those genres can lose quite a bit of the artist's intended emotional impact.
But with a powered sub they would be fine? My #1 goal with this setup is to capture, as you put it, "the artist's intended emotional impact."

My living room and kitchen are basically connected, and a little under 1000sqft with vaulted cielings, fwiw.

Oh ya - my reciever is a yamaha RX-V2095 that puts out 100W/channel if that matters at all.

#5 of 17 jakewash

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Posted February 20 2009 - 07:31 AM

a good set of Bookshelf speakers(high sensitivity), 5.25" drivers and up should be more than capable of achieving slightly below an 80hz crossover point and combine these with a quality sub and it should be easy to fill a 1000 sq. ft room. I have Axiomaudio M22s by themselves in an open floor plan with 750sq. ft. with an old Sony Dolby Pro logic receiver and I can get what sounds like a full range system(floor vibrates with bass notes) through the room around 85-90 db. Bookshelf speakers have come along way in the last few years as has Subwoofer technology making a smallish speaker/sub sytem nearly as good as Floorstanders, maybe even better. Posted Image

I know of a few people that listen to classical and prefer the extra midrange clarity and detail that the smaller speakers offer. They feel the floorstanders slightly cover up the mid range, with the extra warmth(upper bass, lower mid range) many floorstanders offer.

#6 of 17 LanceJ

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Posted February 20 2009 - 10:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim_Wetzel
But with a powered sub they would be fine?
Yep.
Quote:
Oh ya - my reciever is a yamaha RX-V2095 that puts out 100W/channel if that matters at all.
Actually even without a sub in the mix, IMO fifty watts of clean/quality power would be enough.

Quote:
I know of a few people that listen to classical and prefer the extra midrange clarity and detail that the smaller speakers offer. They feel the floorstanders slightly cover up the mid range, with the extra warmth(upper bass, lower mid range) many floorstanders offer.
This is one of those "relative" things i.e. a small speaker is perceived as sounding clearer only because it is not producing as much bass as a speaker with the same midrange output but with more bass (its woofer is larger; a sub is being used, etc). The same effect could be approximately simulated by using a graphic EQ and bumping up the midrange spectrum.*

Unfortunately what they're missing out on is the lower bass portion of the music, which I'm sure the artist included for some reason or another. Posted Image Like for example.....

* DJ Shadow's awesome dreamy/drum-filled/progressive(?) hip-hop instrumental, "Midnight In A Perfect World"

* Massive Attack's foreboding-at-first-but-positive "Angel" trip-hop track (really low bass here)



* an example of the opposite situation would be many better quality table radios that use a small 3 or 4 inch speaker which sound much larger than they really are: to accomplish this, something called a contour circuit is used to depress the little speaker's midrange output, and the ear now senses - relatively speaking - "more" bass and "increased" treble output. Nifty, eh? This is not shady engineering or anything like that, just good design.

#7 of 17 Tim_Wetzel

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Posted February 20 2009 - 04:32 PM

Thanks for all the tips guy!

I got a set of Bose 601s for practically free, so those will do for now while I can shop (and save up money if I have to).

#8 of 17 LanceJ

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Posted February 21 2009 - 06:58 PM

^ the 601s are pretty much my favorite Bose model: lots of clean/powerful bass for its dual 8" woofers and a warm-n-airy quality from those 4 multidirectional tweeters.

A roommate owned some Bose 10.2s, which were really nice too (weighed nearly 70lbs each).

BTW: a pair of 301s would make good surround speakers, especially if you could find a pair of the older series that used what looked like the same woofer as the 601 (just one though) and the same tweeters (just 2 in the 301). Speaking of the 301, positive-feedback.com, a site that I thought only tested hi-end tube gear, $X,XXX CD players etc tested the newest version of the 301 and actually seemed to like it.

#9 of 17 dragonetti

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Posted February 23 2009 - 04:19 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LanceJ
Yep.
Actually even without a sub in the mix, IMO fifty watts of clean/quality power would be enough.

This is one of those "relative" things i.e. a small speaker is perceived as sounding clearer only because it is not producing as much bass as a speaker with the same midrange output but with more bass (its woofer is larger; a sub is being used, etc). The same effect could be approximately simulated by using a graphic EQ and bumping up the midrange spectrum.*

Unfortunately what they're missing out on is the lower bass portion of the music, which I'm sure the artist included for some reason or another. Posted Image Like for example.....

* DJ Shadow's awesome dreamy/drum-filled/progressive(?) hip-hop instrumental, "Midnight In A Perfect World"

* Massive Attack's foreboding-at-first-but-positive "Angel" trip-hop track (really low bass here).

I agree with Lance. Another way to get what you want out of a pair of floorstanders is to bi amp/bi wire, it allows you to better set the freq to your liking. Not saying a good pair of speakers does not have a good set of crossovers in them. The range on my Paradigm's monitor 7 greatly increased from bi wiring/amping.

#10 of 17 Torgny Nilsson

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Posted February 23 2009 - 10:14 AM

To go back to your original question: while 2.1 should be fine for music, I think your music will sound better in 5.1, especially given all the CDs and music DVDs being encoded for surround sound. I have very good full-range floorstanding speakers and a good sub but I still listen to music (mostly classical, jazz, and opera) in 5.1 mode as I think it sounds more like a live performance than 2.1 does.

If I were to start over, I'd buy 2 of the best bookshelf speakers I could afford (something that goes down to 40 Hz or so) and 1-2 good subs, and then stick with them until I could afford to add more of the same bookshelf speakers to reach at least 5.1. That should get you very, very close to a good floor-stander system at a much lower cost and maximize your listening experience for both music and movies.

#11 of 17 CB750

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Posted February 24 2009 - 07:20 AM

I have been a stereo only person for over 40 years. (Bose 901's) until I got a 5.1 system. I have to agree with Torgny that 5.1 system does add sound improvement to most stereo material. Unless you attend an outdoor concert most music is performed an environment that includes reflected sound. This was the premise of Dr Bose's research which went to the development of the 901 system. The problem with the 901 speaker system was it required critical placement in the room environment in order to perform correctly. It is that reflected sound that the rear speakers of a 5.1 system are trying to recreate.

Before the advent of 5.1 sound many of us old stereo dudes created a third channel of reflected sound by wiring a set of speakers + + and putting them in the back of the room like you do with surround speakers today. What came out of that + + channel wasn't very loud but sounded similar to what you hear from surrounds of todays 5.1 systems.

I currently have my 901's driven by an old Sansui 9090DB receiver set up as zone 2 in my 5.1 system. When I A/B the two systems I find a lot of similarity to the way the 5.1 sounds in comparison to the Bose 901's when listening to Music. Where the 901's fall short of the 5.1 system is when I watch TV as it does not have the center channel.

I think Lance's suggestion to build a 5.1 system using those Bose 601 for the fronts and 301's for your rear and center speaker would make for a very compatible and inexpensive music and video system. With the money you save throw in a nice Sub and you will have something that should sound great whatever you listen to.

#12 of 17 Damage Inc.

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Posted February 27 2009 - 03:19 AM

In reply to the very first post:

Wow, I'm actually in about the same situation at the moment.
I have built quite the budget "Home Theater" out of an actual 5.1-receiver, a big subwoofer,
4 all-round media-speakers and a center-speaker from a different set.

I kind of have a similar problem at the moment which I'll create a separate thread about.
But I'd say it depends on the speakers if you get enough power from them.
Of course the amplifier too, but the speakers pretty much determine the "size" of the sound.

My speakers are of medium size I'd say.
They are 2-way, 100 watts, and have bass-speakers of only a little over 5".
And I noticed they are fairly hard to get a big enough sound out of.
Generally they sound fine though, they were built for different kinds of media.
Mostly music and definitely not as satellite-types.

I listen to from Classical to Metal;
Say Iron Maiden, MetallicA, KoRn, SlipKnoT, Cradle Of Filth, Nightwish,
Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, etc.
But it's a bit hard to get that punch from music besides those mids and highs.
Even in combination with the big subwoofer, which is the issue I'll discuss elsewhere.
Actually I listened to 'Batman Begins', which sounds quite amazing.
The nice thing about classical music is, you can turn it up quite a bit without losing definition.
But when I turn up Metal and such to get things trembling, it gets quite overloaded.

But yeah, I'd say get big enough front-speakers for music to get some wind going.
There can definitely come enough noise from any type of speakers.
Even tiny blocks of satellites can sounds strong and detailed.
But I wouldn't really recommend them for a strong solid sound.

Unfortunately in my case there is no room at the screen-side,
so I guess I'd have to put the two previous bigger speakers somewhere else and connect them to the amp's "Channel B".


Oh, by the way, if you're also wondering about how many speakers to use:
I would just keep it stereo (either 2.0 or 2.1 depending on the front-speakers) for music.
Because it tends to get weird and too loose when you'd use like Dolby Pro Logic,
when the music gets remixed into surround-sound and all.
That's also a case of trying out different modes if you have any choice.
But it's best to play it according to how the source was meant to be played.
So say a regular CD with 2 speakers (or 2.1) and a 5.1 audio-CD/DVD in 5.1 of course. Posted Image

- MicHaeL H. / Damage Inc.

#13 of 17 LanceJ

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Posted February 28 2009 - 06:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Torgny Nilsson
To go back to your original question: while 2.1 should be fine for music, I think your music will sound better in 5.1, especially given all the CDs and music DVDs being encoded for surround sound. I have very good full-range floorstanding speakers and a good sub but I still listen to music (mostly classical, jazz, and opera) in 5.1 mode as I think it sounds more like a live performance than 2.1 does.
To add to Torgny's thoughts, in my experience a lot of acoustic music that is usually listened to in a physical venue can sound better in multichannel, if..............

* the DSP mode used to convert it to multichannel is chosen carefully - the names of these vary by manufacturer, but there always seem to be at least a couple different modes - "hall", "jazz club", "concert" etc etc - that do a nice job of simulating small clubs and large concert halls, with no overt echo or other "gee whiz" effects. Many receivers use DSP chips that include reverb patterns recorded at actual venues and can do a startlingly convincing job of recreating the feel of that venue in your living room (these came out starting in the early 90s in higher-end receivers).

* make sure the receiver's speaker distance settings are accurately set - some people don't think this is very important but not doing this will prevent each channel's output from reaching your ears at the same time, and in turn making for a less cohesive & less believable surround soundfield.

* all channels in their optimum locations - in other words, rears shouldn't be in the ceiling or on the floor behind a potted plant or one front main on top of an armoir & the other inside the armoir.

* channel levels are carefully adjusted - this is a particularly important step. To me rear and center (if used) levels should be set to a point where a sense of sonic envelopment just starts to be felt......and then leave those +/- buttons alone! Posted Image If you begin to hear individual speakers, then those speaker(s) are too loud. And in my experience, the levels found by calibrating each channel with test tones & used for movies and surround music mixes on dvd-audio/sacd/DTS-CD discs don't seem to fit well with the hall/club/etc modes, hence my advice above.

And unlike movies, for surround music - which includes the DSP-generated variety - this is where matching or nearly-matching speakers all the way 'round can make a clearly audible difference (this can effect movie soundtracks too, but to me it is not as noticeable). If the rears are really different sonically than the fronts, that difference will make itself known i.e. "Hmm, yep, I can hear the reverb coming from behind me now", instead of a seamless bubble of sound.

As far as Dolby Pro-Logic II, DTS-Neo, Logic7 and similar surround simulators, I find them to be inconsistant as far as their treatment of stereo sources. Their effectiveness also depends on the recording itself, and some just don't contain the right cues for the software to act upon, and you end up getting unrealistic/random effects. Logic7 is my favorite simulator btw. --> Keep in mind I am a big fan of surround music and am kind of picky about how that particular format sounds. Posted Image

FYI: Dolby Pro-Logic - no "II" this time - and Dolby Surround can do a good job on many recordings as far as detecting certain effects, especially reverb, in a lot of stereo recordings and placing them in the rear channels. Most of these effects are less aggressive than the simulators I wrote about above (and don't provide stereo rear channels) but IMO can provide a more realistic listening experience or at least less gimmicky. FYI2: there are quite a few CDs out there, especially classical, encoded with Dolby Surround and when played back with either a DPL or DS decoder, sound really nice!

Lastly (finally!!): multichannel recordings whose rear and center reverb/ambience signals were recorded at the venues where the actual performance took place i.e. no simulated anything, can sound incredibly realistic at home. To find these you'll need to read reviews or carefully read the disc's packaging for recording info.

#14 of 17 Torgny Nilsson

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Posted March 10 2009 - 04:26 PM

The best surround sound processor I have ever heard is EFE's Pro-One. It takes a stereo signal and converts it to 5.1 (it requires no power). I have never heard anything that makes movies and music sound so "live" and so accurate. It is the one piece of audio equipment that my wife urged that we purchase. I don't know if EFE still makes them, but it is well worth checking out if you are normally a 2.0 or 2.1 fanatic.

#15 of 17 eaglerider94

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Posted March 11 2009 - 06:49 AM

Take a look at Monitor Audio's LCR speakers. This is what I have and listen to music 75% of the time. Very nice with HT as well. I have Nyles in ceiling due to the WAF and am looking for a decent used sub for now. Later I'll invest in a brand new sub. monitoraudio.com

#16 of 17 Ennsio

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Posted March 11 2009 - 07:49 AM

If you're into jazz, then I would suggest you also consider Totem loudspeakers. The reviews I have read of their Rainmakers and other lines frequently refer to how great Diana Krall and other jazz sounds on them so I would give them a listen.

#17 of 17 Dan Driscoll

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Posted March 12 2009 - 04:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim_Wetzel
I'm slowly putting together a budget system that will eventually be used for home theater. But my primary purpose for this project is for a high-end audio system so I can listen to my jazz and classical music in my home.

I have long felt that any speakers which played music well would also do HT well, but that the opposite was not necessarily true. So I would recommend finding the speakers that sound best to you for music and I am sure they will be fine for HT, also.

Quote:
I see a lot of "home theater surround sound" sets that include two front, two rear, a center, and a powered sub.

My question is if this is really optimal for an exceptional music listening experience?

It depends. If you are listening to a multi-channel recording that may be the set-up you want. But if you are listening to a 2 channel stereo recording you may only want to use the front speakers and possibly the sub-woofer. IOW, listen to the music in whatever way sounds best to you.

Quote:
The reason I ask is this; when I listen to music, I choose to have a front stage only since that's the way the music would be performed. So, with these surround sound setups that seem to have relatively small speakers (maybe a 6" and a tweeter), if I shut off all but the front speakers is that going to give me the sound I want to fill a living room with vaulted cielings? Or should I be looking something with more substantial front speakers?

Who says you have to have a speaker system with small mains? My 5.1 speaker system is configured to optimize music performance, I have a pair of full-sized 3-way tower speakers (Vandersteen Model 2C) up front and that's all I use when I'm listening to stereo music.

If you do have smaller main speakers you can generally configure your receiver/processor or player to send the low frequency output to your sub-woofer and the rest of the music to your main speakers. Most subs also have a built-in cross-over so you can send the amp output to the sub, then to the main speakers. Set-up properly, either of these can sound very good, IMO.

Quote:
I was eyeing that Audax diy kit that would have me build 4 surrounds and 1 center. I'm just not sure if that's what I should be putting in my house given the primary purpose of the system.

I'm not familiar with that kit, but if it's advertised as surrounds and a center then I doubt it would do music very well.

Call me old-fashioned, but for music, especially stereo music, I prefer full sized, full range speakers. Of course, your room, WAF and budget may not allow that. As always, IMO, YMMV, etc.
Dan

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