Building a house - $20,000 HT Budget - How should I spend the money

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dougie, Nov 13, 2002.

  1. Dougie

    Dougie Extra

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    I'm building a new house next summer which will include a Home Theatre in the basement. Sound quality for playing music in CD and DVD format is the most important thing to me. I want an incredible sounding system but don't know where to spend the money. I could potentially spend $20,000 or more on the HT components. I guess I'm willing to spend whatever it takes to get the quality I'm looking for but I don't want to waste money either.
    First, let me tell you what I have currently (some of which I might consider using in the new HT, definitely will use the TV):
    Amplifier: JVC RX-7010V
    Receiver/amplifier(currently not using): Sony STRD1011S
    Speakers: Paradigm 7seMk3, both fronts with the corresponding center channel speaker, these are mid-height tower speakers (not the reference series)
    Kenwood rear speakers - bidirectional firing with ~41/2" mids plus the tweeters (~$140/pair last year)
    subwoofer: Sonance "The Sub"
    TV: Hitachi Ultravision 61" HDTV
    This is a pretty good system but I want much better sound quality.
    I recently auditioned some speakers:
    -B&W 800's - the sound was incredible as was the price (~$18K/pair). Some other B&W's, like the 802's, sounded great too but nothing like the 800's
    -Dyne - mid-height tower speakers, very good sounding for ~ $3000/pair
    I auditioned some amplifiers as well:
    -B&K 507 with 7 channels ($4000)
    -Arcam AV* and P7 ($8600)
    -Bel Cantro Pre 6 and Evo 6 ($8400).
    It's tough to compare the amplifiers as they are all powering different speakers.
    Is there any way to come close to the sound quality of something very close to the B&W 800's without spending as much money? I was only listening to all this very high-end stuff, I would have liked to compare the speakers with other speakers which cost less (e.g. Polk, Kenwood, whatever....).
    Also, does it matter much what else is in the room as far as sound quality is concerned, things like windows, a fireplace? The HT will be located in an area about 17' wide and very deep.
    Any good sound advice is greatly appreciated (no pun intended), especially from some of you seasoned pro's.
    I'm a little confused [​IMG] about where to begin, especially when I here that some well respected people in the audio business don't believe that one can tell the difference between different amplifiers.
    Thanks!
    Dougie
     
  2. Earl Simpson

    Earl Simpson Supporting Actor

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    I would get the Denon 5803 for ease of installation and would consider building into your walls/ceilings some if not all of the speaker systems.
    I regret not doing that and having speakers setting all over the family room floor. Directionality may be a problem when you use the walls. That all depends on your room layout and speaker installation. Be sure you have ample wires (RG6 for SAT, Internet, and Cable/12 to 8 AWG stranded copper for speakers/ Lan cable)pulled to every conceivable spot in the walls in every room that you may have equipment one day. Also extra 120 volt receptacles.
    Many high end systems have built in mains in the front walls/custom enclosures with custom woofers and horns. If you house is layed out right you can hide the back space of the speakers in closets/ perfect infinite baffle. Or have a decorative cover assembly on the back baffle walls. It just depends on how much you are into this stuff. Before I had children and a life, I had 4 custom built monsters for speakers.
    Go through the primer links at the top pull down menu and search for subjects that will help you. Good luck.
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...threadid=55635
     
  3. RichardH

    RichardH Supporting Actor

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    If it were me, I would get active Professional line M&K speakers at least across the front, coupled w/ a good pre/pro w/ balanced outs. And spend at least $2k on room treatments. Believe me, this will yield better sound than B&W 800's in an untreated room!!
     
  4. Kevin_R_H

    Kevin_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Doug.
    My home was completed a few months ago, and I had pretty much the same situation. Here's what I did:
    Kora Cosmos tube monoblocks (retail $5,900 / paid $5,000)
    Kora Eclipse stereo preamp (retail $3,750 / paid $3,000)
    VMPS RM40 speakers w/ TRT (retail $5,800 / paid $5,000)
    Basis Audio 1400 Turntable (retail $1,950 / paid $1,450)
    If you are not into vinyl, that leaves $7,000 for a pre/pro. Of course, as you will read below, I feel you shouldn't spend anywhere near that kind of money on a pre/pro.
    Relative to the previous posters, I agree you should dedicate some cash to room treatments, but a wonderful job can be done for around $500. I would also prepare to budget some cash to cabling. While Earl's advice (allowing for future expansion) is reasonable, I'm one of those minority who believes "quality over quantity" when it comes to speakers.
    My opinion on the importance of the quality of sound for "HT vs 2-channel audio" is well out of the norm. For me, 2-channel reproduction is extremely important. I wanted to dedicate the lion's share of my available cash to that. Now while watching movies, my priorities change. Let me explain:
    If I'm watching a movie, there will be "effects" coming from the rear speakers (in a 5.1 system). Well, if those effects are not "absolutely true to the source", I doubt it will detract from many people's viewing enjoyment. For example, if the movie depicts someone mowing the grass with a Lawn-Boy, but my system makes it sound like a Honda, now who's really gonna care? If someone is revving a Camaro car engine, but my system makes it sound like a Mustang, the same holds true. You don't need to spend mega-bucks on speakers/amps to achieve this basic requirement. After all, we are talking about watching a movie - not listening to the subtle nuances of a flute solo.
    Note I have had 3 different HT afficianados come over to my home who had been deep into "balancing the sound" among their speakers (and any amps that drive them). Also note that two of them had more money into their overall system than I. However, all three of them are now in total agreement with my philosophy. While situations occasionally arise where the sound of my Home Theater may seem to be missing something compared to their previous systems, it is extremely rare. However, the ability to switch to a world-class 2-channel system never fails to overwhelm this minor limitation. They get this look of awe, and then they start elbowing their wife and whispering things I can't hear. You see, if you can accomplish both, why not?
    Oh, for the rest of my system, I bought PSB Alpha S Bipolar rear speakers (~$300) and a Yamaha pre/pro (~$400). Although I experimented with subwoofers and Center Channel speakers, I felt (and others agreed) that it added nothing to my sound. So, I go without. I also bought a Sanyo PLV-60HT front projector, but of course you don't need to replace your TV.
    By the way, info on the KORA amps can be found at:
    www.kora.net
    VMPS also sells a wonderful Center Channel speaker, and absolutely killer (unpowered) subs. Info on VMPS can be found at:
    www.vmpsaudio.com
    www.harmonicdiscord.com
    Good luck to you - I'm sure your HT/Audio room will turn out wonderfully.
    Kevin
     
  5. Brian Corr

    Brian Corr Supporting Actor

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    Doug,
    Try and decide if you want a "one system does it all" or a separate audio system. You mention DVD audio so if it were me, I'd go for one system.
    I'd probably go with separates as opposed to a receiver since your emphasis is music and this is where separates stand out. B&K is known for it's smooth, warmer sound on audio. I'd suggest also checking out Anthem, EAD and Theta for your components. I've heard the new Arcam is sweet sounding as well.
    For speakers, Aerial Acoustics sound great on music as well as HT. The Rockets (online only) have been compared to B&W so you may want to check into those as well.
    I wouldn't go with in-walls at all. For HT they are fine but not for music.
    Room treatments are a must but can be done yourself at substantial savings.
    Best of luck.
     
  6. Wayne McRae

    Wayne McRae Stunt Coordinator

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    I'll throw in another option here. With 20 large in my jeans for a great H.T./audio room I would look at hiring a consultant to guide you thru this process. He will help you with decisions from the best gear to what speaker wire to use. As you work together you can pick his brain for room treatments, custom wiring, lighting or even furniture. Some places will let you buy a great pre-pro/amp combo, then in a couple of years if new formats arrive you can trade up to a newer pre-pro while keeping your amp. If you hire someone to do this whole job you also will have greater bargaining power for all your gear. My $3.2 cents Canadian.
     
  7. Dougie

    Dougie Extra

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    Thanks
     
  8. WillieM

    WillieM Stunt Coordinator

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    What I would do in your situation is look for a respected and recommended AV consultant/ installer. With that type of money to invest, your intrest is serious and the variables are many. The HT room itself should be addressed before built, if possible. Acoustics and layout/ wall and room treatments etc. With all the room conciderations and audio-video conciderations you would best be served by someone who is experinced in feeling out all your preferences in music and movies so that your needs and desires can be properly balanced with your budget.

    You have a chunck of money to work with but it's not a million bucks. You could end up very pleased with many options for future upgrades and remodeling, or you could end up spending a lot of money on something that is prety good, but leaves you wishing the money was more wisely spent.

    Just MHO
     
  9. Earl Simpson

    Earl Simpson Supporting Actor

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    Good points! Find someone that is near to where you are building for professional advice. Also talk to your certified electrician soon.[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  10. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    I agree with Kevin above. Music is much more demanding then HT. I would devote the majority of your budget to the front 2 channels and then room acoustics.
    Along the line of room acoustics, when listening to music cover that TV up. 61" glass panels can wreak havoc on a system's ability to image and soundstage. Perhaps build some type of AV/console bookshelf arrangement into the front of the theater. Have this piece with room treatements where needed and certainly have some type of door covering for the TV screen when not in use.
    As for equipment, I think the Bel Canto pieces would be really great for a system. The PRe6 ($3500) would allow you to do any format and for movies you would just need to purchase a dVd player with AC-3/DTS decoding built-in this player this could be accomplished well enough with a player in the $500-1000 range.
    Bel Canto Evo amplification would make your system sound great and nice to your electric bill.
    Personally would still lean to tube amplification for the front 2 channels. Perhaps you could even get one of Bel Canto's own 845 based tube amps 40 or 80 watt versions possible.
    I think with this suggested set-up you could add either Analysis Plus cabling or Wireworld and then the Dynaudio speakers would be really nice or maybe Thiels. I don;t kno speakers are a very personal choice.
    Here is an interesting read on Bel Canto and the system's of their founder and owner.
    Bel Canto industry feature
     
  11. Bryan Acevedo

    Bryan Acevedo Second Unit

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    I know this will go against what some people will do, but if I had a budget that high, I wouldn't "blow" it all right now. I would save a good chunk of it for future upgrades.

    You know that as soon as you buy something, the newer and better version is going to come out, and you won't have the cash to buy it and will just wish you had waited.

    I would spend $10k on the system now, and put $10k away and take my time building the system. You may find that you enjoy it more this way. Remember, half of the time, the journey is as good as the destination. Enjoy it!

    Bryan
     
  12. Rich Wenzel

    Rich Wenzel Supporting Actor

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    Bryan, your advice on building the system is a great one for a couple of reasons, one being that the journey can be as pleasurable as the destination, and two buyer's remorse..

    i would not recommend anyone dumping 20k on a system that never had highend before, because there is a lot to learn, hifi is a lot different than midfi and lowfi...

    in line with that, i would buy from a dealer that offers a good policy with returns/trade-ups etc....

    buyers remorse would suck...

    having said that, if sound is your goal, dont change your tv...

    in my mind, the bulk of your money should go to your speakers...

    most of your sound quality is really captured in room accoustics and your speakers...

    you dont say the shape, area and volume of your room, but for most rooms, treatments are cheap...taking a 2x4 and wrapping it in carpet can do a lot for a room if its put in the right place..

    if it was my money, i would be looking at 8k for my fronts, 6k for the rest, 4kish for pre/pros, the other 2k for miscellaneous...

    i would go separates route...

    for 4-5k for separates, there is a lot out there...

    good luck

    rich
     
  13. Michael Davies

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    Doug

    I agree with most of the peoples suggestions re room treatments and professionals etc, but to throw one more opinion into the mix rather than putting away a sizable chunk for future upgrades have a look at meridian, their processors they allow for upgrades as and when required.

    Im not sure what price they go for over there but they are a very impressive system, imo, and the ability to continually upgrade without losing lots of $$$.

    Have fun
     
  14. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    Yeah the problem with the Meridian you are referring to is it eats up 80% of his budget right off the bat. The Meridian 800 starts at 17k and goes up 25k or so. Other options that are also fully upgradeable are the Theta Casa Nova and Theta Casablanca. Casablanca would also eat up much of the budget, not as much as the Meridian however.

    "i would not recommend anyone dumping 20k on a system that never had highend before, because there is a lot to learn, hifi is a lot different than midfi and lowfi..."

    Very good point Rich.
     
  15. Lin Park

    Lin Park Second Unit

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    Excellent advice so far. Here's my story. I started out with a really nice HD RPTV and built an HT around it with Denon electronics and Energy speakers. Then, I like to say that I "evolved" to the "audio is more important stage". [​IMG]
    I decided to dump a fair amount of money into 2 really nice front speakers (Vandersteen Model Fives). I highly recommend these because I feel they give you that Magnepan/Martin Logan presence but use dynamic drivers to do it very efficiently which means bring on the tubes baby. They are very different from the B&W 800's but definitely give them a listen if you can. With that purchase, I ran out of money and had to buy a cheap $500 SS amp to drive them. Within a year, I had upgraded that to a pair of QuickSilver V4's. Now, I'm looking at a pre-amp with HT bypass and a turntable.
    I think Rich's point about "never had highend before" is really spot on so here is what I would recommend to get you started in the 2-ch setup (I'm sure you'll see my bias here):
    Audio Research SP16 pre-amp (retail $2000 or $2500 with phono stage)
    QuickSilver Mono 100 tube amps (retail $2600)
    Vandersteen Model 3A Sig Series mains (retail $3500)
    Sony SCD-555ES and/or Panasonic RP-91 for transports (pick both up for about $1000 total or $500 a piece)
    Dropping that kind of money at most dealers would net you some interconnects and speaker wire on the house. That leaves you about $10k for the HT portion. Consider this:
    Vandersteen VCC-1 (retail $550)
    Denon 3802 (can be had for about $1k)
    Keep the surrounds and sub you currently have
    Wallah, one kick ass HT with 2-channel audio that blows most everything away and you still have $8500 left over. If you really like music, I'd take that and buy a $2500 TT setup and spend the rest on vinyl/SACD/DVD-A's. [​IMG]
    I also agree with the statements about room treatments but tend to stear away from hiring someone to come in and design it for you (takes away the fun I think) but if you don't feel comfortable doing the research yourself then this is "sound advice". [​IMG]
    Good luck and let us know how it turns out. Here are a few links to help you out:
    Vandersteen Website
    QuickSilver Website
    Audio Research Website
    Lin
     

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