Equipment purchase advice needed

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by MikeNagy, Jun 9, 2003.

  1. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    I would like to apologize in advance for my newbie-ishness. I’m sure the most annoying and common post is “What is the best [component type] for [amount of money]??!!” I’m new to these forums and to home theater in general, but I’d like to think that I did at least some of my homework before asking my question.

    Anyway, here’s my situation: I’m a college student trying to get the best setup I can with less-than-optimal circumstances. Firstly, the room I’m looking to put my theater in is not rectangular (see diagram) by any means, and I'm not expecting a good and even sound image as a result. Further, I can’t really do any hardcore modifications because I’m renting this house and I'm not the only one living here. Lastly, and regrettably most importantly, I can’t spend TOO much on the system as I am making only $500 a week, and while my living expenses are covered for the time being (the whole living-with-parents-for-the-summer-because-you’re-poor thing sucks) I need to be saving for the coming school year as well.

    I currently own an Onkyo HT-S650 HTIB that I can cannibalize for components if need be, but I’m really looking to move up. It was a good system for $350, and it opened my eyes to home theater possibilities, but (un-?)fortunately I’m not tone deaf and can easily hear its limitations.

    My question is, what kind / range of products should I be looking at? A lot of the better systems have floor-standing front units with integrated woofers, but would their better quality be wasted on a far-from-optimal room? Should I even be concerned about the room shape/dimensions with the “budget” products that I am forced to limit myself to? I like my music and sound to be slightly warmer, more open sounding, and slightly more bass-heavy (but not to the point of boominess) than average. What kind/brand/model/quantity of speakers should I be looking at? I’ve heard good things about NHT, Ascend Acoustic, and Mirage, but nothing other than a few people think that they are good, more often than not neglecting to justify their statements. Would a 7.1 system help offset bad room acoustics, or would it be a wasted gesture? Also, if you could please throw in your two cents about a receiver to drive said system, I would greatly appreciate it. Of course I’d greatly appreciate any and all recommendations or advice.
     
  2. Mike_Gr

    Mike_Gr Stunt Coordinator

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    I looked at your diagram. I don't see any major obstacles that jump out at me. Your room isn't small (23X14) by any means. A small room can be the single most limiting factor in any setup. I personally wouldn't worry about room acoustics at this point. Much of that can be dealt with once you have your system and are able to tinker with positioning until you find the ideal placement. If at that point you feel room acoustics is still an issue, there are steps you can take... but I suggest you cross that bridge when it arrives.

    Considering your college budget, I suggest you first consider a 5.1 setup (you can always upgrade later). Secondly, you can save money by choosing to use a bookshelf speaker...providing you will compliment them with a good subwoofer. You can use the savings to apply elsewhere (receiver, sub, cables, etc.)

    As far as speakers...dont be afraid to try some of the internet-direct companies. They offer a good 'bang for the buck' approach by cutting out the middle man. Of course, internet-direct companies are not the only ones that offer good value for your dollar. There are a few 'gems' out there that offer outstanding performance for the money. One such gem that comes to mind is Wharfedale. I auditioned both thier Diamond and Pacific Evolution series and was astounded by the value they offer for the money. The Diamond series is probably more along the lines of your budget and might even allow you to go with a floorstander while fitting the budget. I personally chose to go with Axiom but was amazed by both Wharfedale series. The Wharf's are a warmer, more laid-back sounding speaker which I personally do not prefer. Since you stated you prefer a warmer sound, they might suit you. If you can find a Wharfedale dealer near you should give both series a serious listen. (The Evolution series are also very nice to look at)

    I am stopping here.....I am sure others will chime in with suggestions for speakers and receivers. It would help if you at least provided a rough estimate as to your budget allowance for a speaker system and receiver.

    Good luck!
     
  3. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for your reply, Mike. The Wharfedale Diamonds look good, so far as 30 minutes of research online have yielded. I'd never heard of them before reading your post, but so far I have yet to read a bad thing about their performance. They look like they're about in my price range, too (assuming I can find em for a little less than MSRP). As far as what my price range is? It's open to negotiation...if I say I'm willing to spend $1400 on speaker set XYZ, but I can get something that's much better for $1600, I'm willing to spend $1600. I guess the most I could convince myself to part with would be $1200 for the speakers, all channels included. That said, I would be much more comfortable to come in around $1400.

    I just hope that by warmer you mean warmer rather than more tinny/hollow, and not warmer as in muddy. Also, if I were to go with the 8.3's, I think I would need a separate sub. Would I not need a sub if I bit the bullet and went with the 8.4's instead?
     
  4. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    As if it wasn't confusing enough already, I'm now looking at the Wharfedale Diamonds, Axiom's, Paradigm's Monitor series, and Magnepan MMG's.

    My musical tastes are best described as eclectic -- I like classical, jazz, classic rock, punk, metal, hip-hop, rap, and even a little techno. I also like watching a wide array of movies -- everything from Gladiator to Moulin Rouge. I will be using my speakers to primarily listen to music, but also to watch movies a few times a week, and I need a jack-of-all-trades setup to compliment my listening habits.

    Any suggestions?
     
  5. Jason.Soko

    Jason.Soko Stunt Coordinator

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    The Totem Accoustics line may be out of your price range but I HIGHLY suggest checking out their Hawk series. The most insane sound out of a 5 1/4" woofer you have ever heard. Around the $2200 price range in black and mahogany.
     
  6. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, unfortunately that is out of my price range. [​IMG]
     
  7. Jason.Soko

    Jason.Soko Stunt Coordinator

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    Their Arro line I believe is around $1600. While I don't think the tweeter is anywhere near that of the Hawk series. They still sound very very good.
     
  8. Mike_Gr

    Mike_Gr Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike,

    If you are not afraid to buy online....you can find some really good prices on the Wharf Diamond series speaker packages. For example, www.wildwestelectronics.com offers a Wharfedale Diomand package (8.4 towers, center, surrounds) for $899. I didn't check...but the low price may be due to the fact that they are not an authorized dealer....which means no warranty for you. You can always call them and ask to find out if they are indeed an authorized dealer.

    Personally, if it were me, I would require a sub no matter which tower I used (8.3 or 8.4). The 8.4 does have more bass extension than the 8.3...but its not a dramatic difference. When I mentioned 'warmer', I mean to convey that they are more 'laid-back'...some call that 'less tinny' some call it 'less bright' etc. I didn't find them to be muddy at all; rather they were very clear and detailed. The word game can be difficult sometimes. Please remember I have given you my personal opinions. It is very possible that you could listen to them and not agree with my personal assessment...that is why its critical that you listen with your own ears.

    Paradigms are solid performers, although I think you can do better for the money. Definately give them a listen if you have a dealer in your area. I am an Axiom fan, so I won't comment on them much for fear of being biased. I will stand by the fact that Axioms are solid performers with outstanding value. A word of caution.....some people find the Axioms to be 'bright' or 'tinny'. Personally, I attribute this to their being very accurate. Accurate speakers can really bring out the worst in a poor recording. I personally do not find them to be 'bright' or 'tinny'....but that is where personal preference comes into play. If you want to learn a little a more about Axiom speakers and get some questions answered, go to axiomaudio.com and join their forum.

    Keep up the research and try to educate yourself as much as possible. Never be afraid to ask a questions in the forums...no matter how silly they may seem. One last word of advice....be patient. Take your time with research and make sure you don't rush into anything....buyers remorse is hell.
     
  9. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    Sadly, those are also out of my price range. $1000/pair is pretty steep.
     
  10. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for another good post, Mike.

    Ordering online is fine with me as long as I get to hear what I'm buying before hand or there is a liberal return policy. Wild West is indeed an authorized Wharfedale dealer. Another good thing is my local pro audio shop (the like only one in San Luis Obispo County) is also a Wharfedale dealer, so I'll head on down there tomorrow and check them out. Hopefully they'll have some other good stuffs like Axioms.

    The good thing about being on a "working man's budget" is that it's not possible for me to make any hasty decisions, at least not yet, because I don't have enough money saved up to buy much of anything. [​IMG]
     
  11. Mike_Gr

    Mike_Gr Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike,

    You can't find Axiom anywhere....they are internet-direct only. Your best bet is to hit the Axiom forum and try to find if anybody in your area owns them and will give you a demo in their home.

    I forgot to mention one other 'gem'....Athena Technology speakers. Best Buy now carries them. I auditioned them and liked them very much. I wish I could have been able to AB the Wharf's and Athena's side by side....because they both sounded very good.

    The Athena's have two systems...the Audition series and the Point 5. I listened to both and was very impressed all the way around. The Audition series is a step above the Point 5 and offers two differnt floortanding mains to choose from. I thought both systems were excellent values. I listened to HT on both systems and music only on the Audition series.

    Listen to the Wharf's but also give the Athena's a listen. The Athena's, especially the Point 5 system, will be easier on your pocketbook than the Wharf's but both are within your budget.

    Lastly, I didn't care much for the cosmetics of the Athena's. The Wharf's look pretty darn good with their grilles off....becaue their yellow kevlar cones make a nice contrast against the black. The hi-fi shop I auditioned them in had one pair in a piono black lacquer finish....quite stunning.

    Let me know your thoughts on the Wharf's (and Athena's if you get to listen to them also).
     
  12. MikeNagy

    MikeNagy Stunt Coordinator

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    I went to my audio shop today with my demo cd filled with a wide array of music genres to test speakers. I told the guy roughly what I was looking for and he showed me some Paradigm Phantom's, then some Monitor 7's and Mini Monitors. The Monitor 7's were notably better than the Phantom's, and sounded pretty sweet even without a sub. Then when I asked to hear some Wharfedale's, the guy was like "We don't carry them anymore" and went on to say how he has yet to hear a Wharfedale that he likes, blah blah blah, and how they're not the best for the money. So yeah, now I have no local Wharfedale dealers [​IMG].

    I meant to head over to Best Buy to check out their Athena's, but I ran out of time because I was chilling with the guy at the other store, talking about recievers, amps, preamps, etc. Even though I was kinda pissed about not being able to hear some Wharfedale's, the guy really knew his stuff and I walked away knowing a lot more than I did when I walked in.

    Anybody else out there want to throw in their .02 about warmer speakers that I might want to try out?
     
  13. Jason.Soko

    Jason.Soko Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm not sure on the cost, but Definitive Technology makes some nice speakers I beleive in your range. Even Boston Accoustics are pretty nice sounding for the price. However, the cabinet construction with that felt cover seem so cheaply made to me. It was an immediate turnoff.
     
  14. Victor Chan

    Victor Chan Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike,

    I'm the owner of some Ascend Acoustic speakers(www.ascendacoustics.com) (4 CBM-170s and a CMT-340c center) and I would highly recommend them. I was wary of buying speakers online, especially since I did not have the opportunity to hear them. To allay my fears, I took a pair of Ascends with me to compare with a number of speakers from high-end audio shops to see how they stacked up.

    Compared them with the Paradigm Monitor 3s, B&W 601s, B&W CDM-1NTs, Dynaudio Audience 52s and preferred my Ascends to all of these speakers. I wouldn't characterize the Ascends as "warm," but I thought that they were very detailed and accurate without being harsh in the treble. At the same time, they were dynamic enough that they definitely captured the immediacy and drive of rock and dance beats. Imaging ability of these things are amazing.

    Here's a thread on another forum that compares the Ascend Acoustics with some other well-regarded online speaker brands including the Axioms (www.axiomaudio.com), Rockets (www.av123.com), and Aperion (www.aperionaudio.com):

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...+ascend+rocket

    I doubt you can really do better than the $748 for 5 CBM-170s, or $1198 for a 5.1 setup w/ 5 CBM-170s and a Hsu VTF-2 subwoofer. Unfortunately, since you live in CA, you will have to pay sales tax. Input the "xtss" code into the discount code area when you order online, and you'll get free shipping.

    Hope this helps,
    Victor
     

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