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Can I improve sound for only $500?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Rob White, Dec 24, 2005.

  1. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm thinking of spending some Xmas money on new speakers. Right now my Onkyo TX-38 receiver is running 2 front Bose 301's (20 years old) and 2 rear cheap Radio Shack book shelves. I have no subwoofer.

    I have $500 or $600 to spend on new speakers. So I'm looking for a 5.1 setup.

    Will the new setup sound that much better? I've always felt that the 301's did a nice job and I don't want to spend $500 for something that isn't significantly better sounding.

    Is there another option that I haven't thought of, like keeping the 301's as fronts (they wouldn't fit right in the rear) and trying to find a nice match for center, rears, and a sub?

    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Rob
     
  2. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

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    Before the Bose bashers show up, the 301's are pretty good speakers. Your real need is for a subwoofer. THAT will make a huge difference.

    Something like an SVS 20-39PCi, or something from HSU would put a smile on your face for ~$600.

    Changing your other speakers won't make nearly as much difference.
     
  3. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    Actually the first thing you should do is upgrade to a surround sound receiver, even the cheapest Dd and DTS receiver will be a big improvement.

    Look at a subwoofer after that.

    Anything from SVS, HSU will make the sound much fuller, then you need to look at upgrading the speakers[​IMG]

    Brent
     
  4. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry. I goofed when I said that my receiver was an Onkyo TX-38. I'm out of town right now and I just read the bottom of my posts where I had listed the receiver. That's an old receiver. I upgraded a year or so ago to a surround sound receiver. It's an Onkyo, but I don't have the model number with me right now.

    So I'm back to my original question. Will $500 for new speakers really make a big difference?

    Thanks,
    Rob

    p.s. There must have been a time a while back where we were allowed to post our equipment. I thought it helped when people were advising, but I understand that it's too long. So I'll chop mine off.
     
  5. Carl Johnson

    Carl Johnson Cinematographer
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    You're not supposed to put equipment lists in your signature because it would screw up the search function if every single one of your posts contained the term Bose 301. Since you have a specific question about upgrading your system you can post an equipment list. It would be easier to tell you what the weak point in your system was if we knew what kind of equipment you're using [​IMG]

    Since you don't have a subwoofer adding one would likely bring the most bang for your $500.
     
  6. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Alright, I'm back home with some more specific info.

    My Onkyo receiver is the TX-SR502 and it's ready for a 5.1 speaker system, should I choose to go that route.

    So, back to the main question:
    -Can I spend $500 and really significantly improve the sound?
    -One reason that I'm not so crazy about just getting a subwoofer is that my fronts (the 301's) are high and wide (about 7 ft up on top of a bookshelves and about 18 ft across from each other). I feel like a center speaker might help with diaglogue.
    -But maybe, in the end, $500 would just not be enough to make a significant difference.

    One subwoofer question:
    -By just adding a subwoofer, would the 301's sound different/better? In other words, would they do a better job because they have less of the spectrum to concern themselves with?
    -I've got a 5.1 speaker system (Energy Encores) in my bedroom, so I get the basics of a subwoofer. I guess what I'm wondering about is how just getting a subwoofer would change things.

    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Rob
     
  7. Stephen Hopkins

    Stephen Hopkins HW Reviewer
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    With what you have I'd upgrade speakers AND add a subwoofer. Something like JBL E30 mains, E10 or E20 surrounds, EC35 center, and Dayton 12" sub would fit your budget and increase both sound quality and add the impact of the lower frequencies. If you think in 6 months or maybe a year you'll have another $300 - $500 to spend you may want to spend more on speakers and wait on the sub or vice versa. If $500 now is it for awhile i'd go w/ a full 5.1 speaker package upgrade.
     
  8. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Stephen,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I was able to price out the 5 speakers you mentioned at:
    E30's: $139
    E20's: $120 or E10's: $87
    EC35: $144.47

    So, it looks like around $400 (depending on E20's or E10's) before the subwoofer. Unfortunately, I can't find a "Dayton 12in Sub." All I can find when I look is a DIY sub by Dayton that folks use to build their own sub woofer. Is there a particular model to look for? Is a $100 subwoofer going to give me good results?

    Thanks in advance,
    Rob
     
  9. Kevin G.

    Kevin G. Second Unit

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    Rob, What's your room size? The Dayton 12 incher here is a distant cousin to the Dayton 10 incher, here, which is discontinued... Kind of a shame, viewed as a stellar performer for price and punch. (I can attest, I have one.)
    If it is as good or better, you will be no less than astonished. And yes the bang for the buck is amazing.
    My brother has the same 301's that you are speaking of, they were fantastic, before the days of their big heads, and poor quality.I upgraded from 201 v3's...moved them to rear duty, stepped up to Paradigm Focus and cc 270, and haven't looked back.
    A center will definitely help, unfortunately the one that matches, (albeit "match" would be used loosely here) would be the vcs10 center from bose, which is a poor poor excuse for a center. A better move would be 3 matched accross the front and move the 301's to rear duty.
     
  10. SamNavy

    SamNavy Stunt Coordinator

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    A 20 year-old speaker is probably in need of some refreshing. How do the Bose speaker surrounds look? Are they still in good shape? I can also bet that your cheap Radio Shack bookshelves are a horrible complement as far as "matching" in sound and won't do justice to your Onkyo.

    In the $500-$600 range, something that is often recommended is indeed one of the small HSU subs, and 4xbookshelfs and matching center combination from JBL, Infinity, Polk Audio, Klipsch, etc... It sounds like you like the construction and look of the Bose, and in that case, you can always find a couple pairs of Bose 201's on Ebay for about $100 a pair. Match those with a Bose VCS-10 center (not the best "center", but about $150 on Ebay or $200 new anywhere), and you're set. When people speak badly of Bose, they're mostly speaking against the "cube" systems. I would say the 301/201 series are equal to just about anybody else out there in their respective price ranges.

    But in real answer to your question, YES, you can get significantly "more" and "better" sound with just $500 than you've currently got. All the recommendations and different options listed so far are on the money.
     
  11. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Kevin,

    Thanks for your insight. Bad news, though, is that the 301's as rear isn't an option (it would look bad and my wife wouldn't go for it).

    The room's diminisions are are a little tough to explain, so I drew a diagram. It's an L-shape. Here's my best explanation:

    A: Left front speaker
    B: Right front speaker
    C: Right rear speaker
    D: Left rear speaker
    *The curve is the sofa that we watch the tv from.
    *I know that the rear speaker positions are less than ideal, but we prewired before home theater and 5.1 was around and we're not looking to rewire.
    *About 18 ft. from A to B. We sit around 9-10 ft. from tv. I tried to draw things to scale. Ceiling is 8 ft.
    __________________________________________________ ______
    | A TV B |
    | |
    | |
    | / |
    | _______________/ |
    | |
    _______ __________ _____
    | |
    | C|
    | |
    | |
    | |
    | |
    | D |
    ______________________

    Any more thoughts from anyone?

    Thanks in advance,
    Rob
     
  12. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow. My diagram looked great when I drew it in the reply box. Now it looks like crap. So, unless someone knows how to fix the drawing, let me say this:

    •Speakers are 18 ft. apart (fronts)
    •Couch is 10 ft. from tv
    •Rears are between 3 ft and 13 ft behind sitting area.
    •Ceiling is 8 ft.
     
  13. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    I need smallish speakers in the rear. That's just the way it is. I'm guessing (haven't checked yet) that the Bose 201's are too large.

    Rob
     
  14. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Rob:

    I also think Bose's conventional speakers are pretty decent, especially the 301s, but............

    For best home theater sound (and music) they really need to be placed much closer together, say, around 8-10 feet from each other in that particular room. And, mounted at the same height as your monitor (hopefully that's around ear level), ideally at the horizontal center line of the screen. This will generate a much more cohesive sound/image movie watching experience.

    The only thing that might detract from the above is if you own the 301s that either:

    1) have the movable vane to direct a portion of the tweeter's output to the sides so they reflect off of nearby walls. I would adjust it so all the output is aimed at the listening area. If it isn't, this can cause some left/right sound effects to appear way too far off-screen and the preciseness of the system's front imaging will be compromised i.e. reduce your system's "theater effect".

    2) if your 301s are the model with a second tweeter facing rearwards, well, can't do much about that! I'm sure Bose "voiced" the speakers to include that tweeter's output to produce an overall correct sound, so covering it up might result in less-than-desirable sound*.

    That Bose center channel? I have to tell ya, even for a modern Bose speaker I thought it sounded awful. Unless they recently improved it without changing the model number, I absolutely would NOT use one. I would say a JBL E25 center channel will be an approximate match to the 301s' sound & definitely improve the HT experience by focusing the center sounds and improving dialog clarity.

    Are your surround speakers really mounted one behind the other? Ummmmmmm, that isn't going to help produce a proper *s u r r o u n d* sound field. All the directional and ambience effects will get mangled. Rewiring that one channel to get it to your side IMO will make a VERY audible improvement and those JBL E20s will also help improve the HT experience. Otherwise I personally wouldn't even use them (program your receiver for "surrounds-no" so you won't lose any effects).

    That PartsExpress 12" subwoofer will reeeeally make a positive difference for adventure and musical movies. Though it's spartan styling probably won't impress your wife (I'm thinking about buying one myself with my upcoming tax return, but I really wish it came in a cherry finish to match my Bostons).

    * back in the summer of 2004 we were checking out some new 301s at Circuit City and I noticed that the rear-facing tweeter seemed to be emitting mostly a upper midrang-ey sound because the higher frequency cymbals that were coming from the front facing tweeter were nearly absent. This is most probably part of the overall sound chosen by Bose.
     
  15. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey LanceJ,

    The 301's I have are the ones with the second tweeter facing backwards.

    I'd like to bring the new front speakers closer together. I may be hampered by where the wire comes out of the wall, though. Is it possible to splice 4-5ft. of extra wire onto the current wire in order to allow the speakers to be lower (also worried about that for getting the wire (in the other direction) to reach the new subwoofer on the floor. When we put the wire in the wall during construction (10 years ago), I don't think I left enough extra wire to take into account the new placement.

    Your JBL link brought me to an "E25" center channel. An earlier poster had mentioned the "E35" (which is more expensive). Would either do a nice job?

    My surrounds aren't mounted behind each other. I tried to make a diagram to show. One is at about a 45? angle 6 ft. behind and the other is at a 20? angle about 15 ft. behind. I realize that this is less than perfect. When I set up my bedroom a few years ago (during an addition), I knew better and balanced things well.

    Last question is a biggie, I'm not familiar with the term "PartsExpress." What is there 12in woofer? What's it cost?

    Thanks in advance,
    Rob
     
  16. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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  17. Rob White

    Rob White Stunt Coordinator

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  18. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    I think it would be the Dayton branded one that he's talking about. Chances are it will materially outperform that 8 inch low profile sub you linked to earlier (and it's nearly 1/2 the price).
     
  19. John S

    John S Producer

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    Get 3 pair of JBL E30's and the biggest meanest sub you can afford. That should yield dramatic results.


    The Parts express subs are a good bargain, if you are prudent here in price searching you may be able to slide in two of the Parts Express 12" subs. This would yield remarkable results even in a tough room.


    I would not go any smaller than JBL E30's, with your budget I think that would yield dissapointment.
     
  20. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    As for the wire length issues, use wall plates. Attach the in-wall wire to the back of the plate and a new piece of wire to the front of the plates. You can pick up plates at radio shack or home depot. It looks nicer than wires coming right out of a wall and/or splicing.

    And get the kind of plates where the connectors come separately, that way you can customize it.

    I have the surround speaker wire going into my wall from my receiver at the same spot where the cable coax comes in, so I have a 6-connector wall plate with 4 speaker connectors (2 for each speaker), 1 coax connector and a filler for the unused hole. At the back of my room, the surround wires come in at the same spot behind my couch, so I have a 4-connector plate.
     

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