I have a “rough draft” of a possible system that I’ve put together based on a huge number of hours spent over the last few months researching products and reading thoughts of others on all things audiophile. I’ve heard Magnepans in stereo before but not these models and never in this combination or environment. However, I love the depth and imaging their design provides and the open spaciousness of the sound. I’ve decided on these models because, they’re wall mountable and can fold flat if necessary, owner satisfaction is first rate, and they fit my budget. I haven't been able to audition any of the other equipment. (Higher end AV stores are very limited in this area.) I’d like those of you with some experience in the home audio arena to give me any thoughts you might have on whether or not I’m on the right track--and why. The reasoning behind your opinion will help me learn and understand how to make better choices! Thanks in advance! Here we go...
What I'll use my system for:
Watching SD and HD satellite TV 50%
Watching DVD/Blu Ray movies 25%
Listening to music (radio, CD, SACD, or DVD-Audio) 25%
I'm sure I might find myself doing more of one and less of another after learning my system’s capabilities and what I enjoy most from it.
Approximately 16‘X12’ with 8’ ceilings
Side walls are the long walls.
Left wall is has a centered large window (~8’) with PVC blinds and sofa underneath.
Right wall has a centered open doorway (~4’) into the rest of the house.
Front wall has standard window on the left abutted to the side wall and a french door on the right abutted to the side wall (both with PVC blinds) and a 3.5’ tall piano on the wall in between.
The rear wall has the front door about 1’ in from the left side wall.
Floors are hardwood with 4’X7’ rug in center. The room doesn't seem to be overly “live” acoustically. My main listening position is a chair fairly centered on and close to the rear wall (ears ~2.5’ in from of rear wall) near the door.
*TV:Panasonic 54” V10 series plasma mounted and centered on the front wall over the piano between the window and French door. (I realize this is a little high, but much of my watching/listening also will be from a slightly reclined position, so the sight line will be comfortable.)
*Front main speakers: Magnepan MC1’s mounted on side walls about 2’-3’ in from the front wall about 2.5’-3’ off the floor so that they won’t be blocked by the nearby sofa. Does anyone know of any imaging/reflection issues with having a glass window or door with PVC blinds behind these speakers (or Magnepans in general) instead of a solid wall?
*Rear surround speakers: Magnepan MMG-W’s mounted on side walls about 1’-2’ in from rear wall about 2.5’-3’ off the floor. Since I’ll mainly be sitting close to the rear wall, I don’t want the rear speakers too far forward from that wall or I might end up almost behind them. I know MMG-W’s need space behind them, but would 1’-2’ be enough room for them to “breathe”? Also, I’ve never had a system that played multichannel music (SACD/DVD-A), so I don’t know how big a role rear surround speakers play in listening to music like this. With their narrower bandwidth vs. the larger front MC1’s, will I still enjoy them for multichannel music?
*Center channel speaker: I am going to try the MMG-C. But considering its smaller bandwidth compared to the MC1’s, I may end up doing the phantom center configuration with the fronts if that sounds better or just as full. The CC3 is a possibility, but it would have to sound significantly better than the MMG-C or the MC1’s in phantom mode to justify the expense. Has anyone used either of these centers with MC1 or MMG (the next closest thing) fronts or used these fronts in phantom mode instead of a center speaker? Also, a center would be on top of the piano and below the TV, meaning it would be <1’ from the wall. Would a Magnepan center work that close to the wall, and does anyone see any resonance issues from the piano being a problem?
*Sub(s): I have looked at REL, Velodyne, Rythmic, and SVS models that seem like possible good matches. I know that I need something musical, controlled, and tight into the upper range in order to blend smoothly with the Maggies. Any thoughts or suggestions on recommended models? Can I get away with just one in that room, or would two be better? I’ve read that two might work better since they will likely be crossed over in the 80-120Hz range which could localize it. Any experience with this? I’m flexible with location to a point. There are three or four spots I would put one around the room. Whether one or two, I would like to keep the total cost under $1000 if at all possible.
(The following components would go in a small, end table sized custom built cabinet on the left side wall near the front corner under the FL speaker next to the sofa.)
*Satellite: DirecTV HD DVR
Blu Ray/CD/SACD/DVD-Audio player: Oppo BDP-83. I know it does a great job for video, but does anyone have any reason why I shouldn’t use it for music (stereo or multichannel) as well? Would using the onboard DAC or bypassing to a preamp DAC be better for music?
*Preamp/processor: Integra 9.8 or 9.9 (used/demo/refurb based on Audiogon prices). Any better suggestions under $1000-1200? I’ve read great things about its video processor for upconversion. The Anchor Bay chip in the Oppo is also supposed to be great upconversion for DVD’s. Would using the Oppo to upconvert DVD’s be the best option or would the prepro do better? Can the Integra upconvert SD DirecTV signals better than the TV or satellite box? Can 1080i HD satellite be upconverted to 1080p, and if so, is best (or only) method to use the Integra? Will this equipment benefit from a top-notch preamp video processor or will I better off using the Oppo and TV upconversion and getting something cheaper like a more mainstream Onkyo/Yamaha/Denon receiver as a preamp for audio? If other pieces can handle video processing duties just as well, I think my only other primary requirements in a preamp are solid audio signal handling and processing, quality processing of the latest audio codecs, and speaker equalization (Audessey, etc.).
*Amp: Emotiva XPA-5. Reviews and owner comments speak very highly of this unit, and it appears to have the power stability and output to cleanly and effortlessly drive 4 or 5 Maggies, even for extended playing at very high volume. For anywhere near its price, I haven’t seen anything that seems to be more capable and solidly designed and built. Anyone know of a reason why this amp wouldn’t safely and cleanly get the most out of the Maggies without any issues?
*Speaker wire: Is there any reason to use anything other than simple in-wall rated 12AWG solid core speaker wire like that available from Monoprice? By that, I’m not talking about reasons based on opinions like “SuperXYZ wire sounds better” but reasons based on physical matters like impedance, inductance, resistance, etc. associated with carrying the signal/power from an amp like this to planar speakers like these Maggies in a safe and stable manner. With this equipment, are there any basic wire attributes that I should reevaluate or further consider (gauge, solid vs. stranded, termination methods, etc.)? The longest run length will be <30’.
*Source interconnects: For the TV/prepro/Oppo/satellite connections, can I just use 3 HDMI cables (two sources to preamp and preamp to TV) or is there a significant reason that I should use the multichannel analog outs on the Oppo as well? What would be the purpose of using both HDMI and analog? Can I (or should I) play SACD/DVD-Audio through HDMI? I'll have at least one sub and want to use an equalization system like Audessey, and from what I’ve heard, some preamp analog inputs don’t get processed (bass management, Audessey, etc.) like digital/HDMI inputs.
*Prepro/amp interconnects: I want to use something solid and secure that will carry the signal reliably--nothing fancy. That said, is there a benefit to using the XLR connections (if the preamp has them like the above Integra does) over the unbalanced RCA connections even though the cable length will be <3’?
For the HDMI and prepro/amp cables (and analog Oppo to prepro cables if necessary), will standard but well made cables like those from Monoprice work fine, or is there another source I should consider for build quality or specifications concerns? (For any of the cables, I’m only interested in simple yet sturdy cables that can be had for <$10-20 each.) If run lengths might be a factor, the components will all be in the one small cabinet (probably 2’-3’ cables), and I estimate that the HDMI cable run under floor/in wall from prepro to TV will be <25'.
*Outlets: My house is 50+ years old with mostly original outlets and wiring. I plan on having a 20A dedicated circuit run from my breaker box outside for this equipment. I will need at least two outlets (one for the TV, one for everything else) on the adjoining walls. If I can use one circuit, should anything go on separate outlets on the same circuit for any reason (amp by itself, etc.)? Is there a reason to run more than one dedicated circuit for all of this equipment? If I need more than one dedicated circuit, what items should be separated and why? Also, for the dedicated circuit(s) I’ll be running to the breaker box, what grounding issues/methods should I be aware of?
*Surge protection/line conditioning: I will definitely be using a surge protector for each outlet for all equipment. Are there any features I should look for or avoid for this equipment when purchasing a surge suppressor line conditioner? (I’m looking at simple Panamax/TrippLite type items that retail for <$100.) Will all the equipment run fine plugged into something like these?