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From a 2 channel HT system, what next: subwoofer or center channel speaker? (1 Viewer)

AkamaiGuy

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Hi All,

 

I'm a noob to HT gear (and this site), but have been doing a ton of research as I embark upon building an HT system from scratch. My primary focus is building a system for 1080p movies and TV rather than music or video-gaming. My den is fairly small (I'll be sitting about 9' away from the screen in a room that is about 11' x 14' and has a hardwood floor and a 9' plaster ceiling). I'd rather buy a few moderately-high quality components (spending the main money on the TV and the BluRay player) and 2 speakers and then build a 5.1 system over the next couple of years. Depending on finances, I will be getting:

 

TV: Panasonic TC-P50VT25 50" plasma TV or a Magnolia show room demo Pioneer Signature Elite 101FD 50" monitor

Player: Oppo BDP83 BluRay player

Receiver: Leaning towards a Marantz NR1501 or Pioneer VSX1020-k

Speakers: Leaning towards a pair of Polk RTi A1 bookshelf speakers

 

My main question is what would do me the most good next, to buy a good subwoofer (I'm thinking a Polk MicroPro 2000 or a Polk DSW PRO 500) or to buy a center channel speaker (probably a Polk CSi A4 if I get the pair of RTi A1s)?

 

Whichever I buy, the next step would be to buy the other component and then eventually get 2 rear speakers, but I just haven't read much on whether a 3 speaker (L, C, R) system would be better than a 2.1 in a small room such as mine.

 

Any ideas?

 

p.s. I don't have to get Polk speakers, and I'd consider Onkyo or something else for the receiver but all the non TV components need to be about $550 each or less.

 

--Russell
 

David Willow

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Hi Russell,

 

IMO, if you are getting bookshelf speakers, the next thing I would buy is a really good sub. The bookshelves will not produce the low frequencies required for movies. You can get by without a center.

 

Checkout internet direct companies like SVS, ED, and HSU for the sub. No matter what speakers you purchase, you can always do better with and ID sub.
 

AkamaiGuy

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Thanks, Dave. I appreciate your speedy input. My intuition has been telling me that, like you wrote, a 2.1 system would be better than a 3 channel one, but I want to make sure that my particular choices for the initial gear don't suggest otherwise.

 

Any preference amongst the SVS / ED / HSU brands, especially in the $400-550 range? I feel confident in my TV, BluRay player, and Receiver choices, but less so with speakers and certainly know next to nothing when it comes to subwoofers. And I know absolutely nothing about those three brands. Is there any subwoofer in my price range from any of those three that would work particularly well (or not) with the Polk speakers?
 

David Willow

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Check this sub from SVS: http://www.svsound.com/products-sub-box-10nsd.cfm

 

Also check their B-Stock. Right now you can get the next step up for $529: https://svsound.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=151&CFID=273407&CFTOKEN=36311940

 

My advice would be listen to speakers before you buy. Speaker choice is a very personal choice and what I like may not be what you like.
 

BTW - This advice does not apply to the sub - you can tell by specs and reviews how it will perform.
 

AkamaiGuy

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I'll check out some reviews on that entry level SVS sub -- definitely the right price range for me.

 

The link for the B-stock item you provided didn't work, so maybe it's sold out already.

 

Do you have a link to any sort of guide to purchasing subwoofers in terms of what specs are needed for what sizes of room, types of flooring, or other listening or environmental variables?

 
 

csintegrators

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another thought, save a little more money and get yourself a respectable home theater in a box. something like a paradigm cinema 70 (about the $500 range) or cinema 90 (about $700). this would get you the full, entry level, 5.1 set up all you need is a receiver and wiring. then slowly upgrade. just a thought.
 

David Willow

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Originally Posted by csintegrators

another thought, save a little more money and get yourself a respectable home theater in a box. something like a paradigm cinema 70 (about the $500 range) or cinema 90 (about $700). this would get you the full, entry level, 5.1 set up all you need is a receiver and wiring. then slowly upgrade. just a thought.

HTiB = bad idea. Mostly all proprietary, cheap speakers, and almost always non-upgradeable. If you have the funds it is better to go the route you are already on.....
 

AkamaiGuy

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Thanks for the suggestion, Victor. I have considered an HTiB system (and listened to some), but I think I'd rather focus on fewer, higher quality components -- even if it means going some months with just two quality L & R channel speakers, then adding the subwoofer (or maybe right away if I can finagle x-mas contributions for it), then a center channel speaker, and then adding the 2 rear speakers. My den is so small, that I think the sound will still be pretty full even without the fun surround stuff. But I'll take a listen to the system you mention if I can find it locally -- I'm always open to other ideas.
 

CB750

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Welcome Russell,

 

If your stated goal is video viewing of TV and Movies over over music. Then you would be best served by a 5.1 speaker system. This configuration is best suited for your goal as it will give you a good front sound stage with a center channel that will handle the dialog, a sub for the low frequencies, and surrounds for the action scenes. Anything less than this for TV and movies will be a compromise and will not take advantage of the 5.1 channel audio you will have available to you. You need to establish a budget for a 5.1 system and then start listening to as may 5.1 systems that are in your budget range.
 

gregodorizzi

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Originally Posted by AkamaiGuy

 

Do you have a link to any sort of guide to purchasing subwoofers in terms of what specs are needed for what sizes of room, types of flooring, or other listening or environmental variables?

 

Check out the FAQ link on the SVS web site. Very informative.
 

smithb

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Russell,

 

I agree with Dave and think you are going about this the right way. Much better to build over time and have a better overall system for longer then short-cut to get more now and then just replacing it all or being less happy in just a few years. As Dave stated, listen to a few speaker brands in your price range to find those that you like the best. You will either find you have a preference in different speaker design or you won't. Some times people can tell differences but would be happy with either (i.e., they get use to whichever sound their speaker provides). Also, for a small room, and if it is primarily for you sitting in the middle (sweet spot) you can use the receiver "phantom" mode to simulate a center channel speaker until you can afford a separate one.

 

As for the sub, SVS, HSU, and some others provide great value for the buck. However, some of these are a bit deceiving when seeing the pictures and are much bigger then originally expected. So if you want good solid bass that you can feel these will accommodate. But in a small room (especially if multi-purpose) it will stand out (sight wise and through the walls). So you need to figure how much bass you really want because there are some smaller one's that may better suit your particular needs just as well. Generally, best to select from a mainly sub company then subs that are part of a system. The size of the low-end SVS box sub isn't too bad size wise.

 

You also might want to put a carpet on those wood floors though for sound absorption. The room design is just as much apart of the equation. But you don't always have to go crazy with absorption panels to get benefits. Books on a bookshelf, carpet, drapes, cloth furniture can all help to a degree.
 

huanghuang

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You also might want to put a carpet on those wood floors though for sound absorption. The room design is just as much apart of the equation. But you don't always have to go crazy with absorption panels to get benefits. Books on a bookshelf, carpet, drapes, cloth furniture can all help to a degree.

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huanghuang

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You also might want to put a carpet on those wood floors though for sound absorption. The room design is just as much apart of the equation. But you don't always have to go crazy with absorption panels to get benefits. Books on a bookshelf, carpet, drapes, cloth furniture can all help to a degree.

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Will_B

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The center channel speaker is the most important speaker in a home theater. A subwoofer is a frill. People in condos don't even bother with subwoofers since they drive the neighbors crazy. They're optional.
 

smithb

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Originally Posted by Will_B

The center channel speaker is the most important speaker in a home theater. A subwoofer is a frill. People in condos don't even bother with subwoofers since they drive the neighbors crazy. They're optional.

I would say the center, front left and right, a pair of surrounds and a subwoofer are all important to creating the theater effect (5.1). A second pair of surrounds for the rear or sides is a luxury (7.1) or additonal subs. But considering that a center speaker can be simulated when a subwoofer cannot and the use of bookshelf speakers gives little bass, in this case I would go with the sub for now and add the center later. There are those that even prefer the phantom channel effect when they have outstanding left and right front speakers, due to limitations in center designs.

 

And since the OP hasn't mentioned anything about a Condo, why should that even come into the discussion?

 

There are also a few internet direct companies I would recommend for purchases on a budget. Especially, for somebody that is not as descriminating about there speaker choices and buys more off recommendations then listening experiences. Ascend Acoustics would be one I would consider.
 
 

AkamaiGuy

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This is so great to get everyone's opinions and suggestions--thank you all.

 

I am fortunate to live in a house (at least for two more years), so I don't have to worry about bothering downstairs neighbors with a sub. But the size of the sub is definitely a consideration, so I'd prefer to get the smallest moderately-high quality one possible for $400-500 that is suited for a small room (that I just measured and is actually only 12'x9' ! My couch will be along the long wall, so my viewing distance will only be just under 8'). If an 8" one that is good quality will do, I think that's the size that would work well given my other furniture in the room.

 

The room has two big bookshelves and my couch is cloth, but carpet isn't an option (because I have a rolling desk chair nearby). I think the acoustics are decent, if slightly on the harder side.

 

I'm fine with not having the surround effect yet given that I'm stepping up from a 20" CRT with two tiny cruddy speakers! Anything I get will be exponentially fantastic compared to that, so building slowly to 5.1 is cool. I'll make sure that whatever receiver I get (and I'm leaning towards the Marantz NR1501 for price and feature reasons) has the "phantom mode" (thanks for that suggestion, Brad Smith, since it will be primarily myself watching TV alone or with my gal and probably never more than just us), since I think I will add a sub before I add a center speaker (and if I do, I'll be sure to get high enough quality L & R speakers so that the lack of a center isn't detrimental even if I miss out on how great a center can be for movie dialogue).

 

Does anyone else have any experience with or opinion on Ascend Acoustics speakers? Any comparison to the Polk RTi A1s I'm considering. I do plan on listening to more speakers, and would like to buy based on listening, reviews, and testimonials if possible rather than just one or two of those.

 
 

David Willow

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Hi Russell,

 

It is not the distance you sit from the sub that matters, it is the size of the room. With subs, there's no substitute for size. Having said that, I would still recommend the SVS.
 

Jason Charlton

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I think a lot of times people forget that even the largest subwoofer can be used in a smaller room - thanks to a handy device called a volume control! All decent subs come with them, and allow you to adjust performance as you see fit.

 

I don't think it makes sense to "buy small" now, simply because the current situation calls for it - especially if you acknowledge that the situation is likely to change within a couple of years.

 

Buy the best gear that fits into your budget.

 

When it comes to subwoofers, it's all about moving air - larger drivers are better at it than smaller drivers (I know that's a vast simplification...). I would much rather have a 12+" subwoofer that is capable of great performance and then crank it down for everyday use, than have a smallish 8" that when fully cranked is only suitable for a "smallish" room...

 

Just my .02. Best of luck!
 

smithb

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For a dedicated HT or where asthetics don't matter I will agree with Jason to get the larger sub since it will last along time and you still have control its impact. I guess my warning about the sub size was more from experience in having recommended them in the past. Some of the internet brands are fairly large and it doesn't always come across in the pictures. So it really depends on how much you like thundering bass, what your plans are for the future in expanding your environment/setup, and the space available in the room. One of my recommendations of an SVS backfired because the sub stuck out like a sore thumb in the room and even though the bass was great they ended up moving it out because it was just too big for their tastes (this was the prior smallest SVS box sub before the NSD model). The next time worked out better because it was a dedicated room and the newer (at the time) PB10-NSD was smaller.

 

So if you really want thundering bass go bigger, if not, even the smallest SVS provides a lot of bang for the buck (and is not really that small by any means). Definitely measure out the space you have for locating a sub and if room asthetics are at all important, make sure you are comfortable with it's size. And remember subs don't always have to be out in the open.
 

AkamaiGuy

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Certainly the dimensions of some 10" subs could work in my space. I think the dimensions of the 12" subs I've seen would be too big (and I don't anticipate living in a larger space than I do currently, although one day I might have my system in a slightly larger room). I don't need thundering bass, just a complete/full sound for movies and TV (and maybe gaming sometime) at a low to moderate (never high) volume if that makes a difference to what people are recommending.

 

Does anyone have an opinion on the Polk Audio DSW MicroPRO 2000 sub which is only 12.8 x 11 x 12.6 inches and 34 pounds? It's more expensive than some of Polk's larger subs. Here are some characteristics:

  • Equipped with 8-inch cone and a 8x8-inch quadrilaterial bass radiator
  • Frequency response: 29-200 Hz
  • Power handling: 1200 watts continuous, 2400 peak
     
It retails for $1,299 but Amazon currently has it for $563.46 with free shipping which seems like an amazing deal, so, I wondered, at that price, how it compares in quality to the SVS PB10-NSD (which is currently at $475).
 

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