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Looking for suggestions on adding Surround Sound Speakers (1 Viewer)

wonkamas

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Chris
I guess I am an audophile in training and looking for some advice / wisdom on adding some surround sound to my current set up.

Right now I have a Pioneer Receiver VSX-D509S w/ these specs.
Amplifier Section
Continuous average power output of
100 watts* per channel, min., at 8
ohms, from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz with
no more than 0.2 %** total harmonic
distortion (front).

and I am using some old Bose Model 21 w/ 4-8 ohms impedence and 50 watts max. continuous power.

Right now I'm using these as my front left and right speakers , my tv as the center and would like to add in some surround speakers (hopefully on the smaller side to appease my wife) and eventually a subwoofer but as I'm trying to piece this together myself w/o having to by the whole system together at once I was wondering if anyone could help me in knowing what to look for say on Ebay in say the $100-$200 range.
I added all the specs cause to be honest I don't know what it all means and so when looking for speakers do I just want matching specs. ?

Last bit of info. I just bought a used Bose Acoustimas 3 series ii system off of ebay and couldn't get the satalites to work at all as surround and so partly I'm trying to figure out was it just cause they were the wrong speakers for this system or were they just busted. I sent them back.

Sorry for the novel but any help is greatly appreciated.
 

brandonchenry

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Brandon Henry
ok young audiophile. your first lesson is this: don't buy or use Bose ever again.

You have fallen into an old Bose mind-trick.

If you really want to progress in you sound enjoyment, it is imperative that you know Bose is a joke among the audio world. When you buy Bose, most of the money you spend goes into that cool commercial you saw that made you want Bose in the first place.

So my recomomedation is that before you think about surrounds, you need to replace you left and right with real speakers. And also before surrounds, you should get a speaker for you center and quit using your tv speakers when you are doing some serious listening. The center channel may be the most important in a surround set-up, because its job is to play the sounds of what is on the screen (voices and whatnot). After those three are in place my next choice wold be a subwoofer then surrounds.
 

wonkamas

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Chris
Ok, that's funny about the Bose cause I read on another forum basically the same advice but I guess since they're all I've known I haven't realized how crappy they were.
So the question than is what are some respected brands by the audophile community and what are some minimum specs. I should be looking for to have a decent system.

I will most likely have to save up and by it piece by piece so in response to the second answer about them being the same timbre are you saying the front left and right need to be the same brand or all of them should?

Thanks alot for the advice
 

LanceJ

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Chris: since you're piecing this system together, for now I agree that you should definitely not use your TV's speakers as the center channel. Very few TVs, particularly of the flatscreen variety, include speakers of any decent quality and using one of those Bose 21s would actually sound much better!

What I would do is what a number of people here do, including myself, and that is to program your receiver for what's usually called the "phantom center mode". In a surround receiver's speaker set-up menu, when "no center" is chosen, the receiver will re-direct the center signal to the front left/rights. And as long as you have those two speakers properly located i.e. on either side of the TV and the listening position is in front & level with them, you will hear sounds that belong in the center of the image seemingly emanating from the center of the TV screen.

A phantom center is not a trick and is a good demonstration of what "imaging" is all about. The only real disadvantage is that people way off to the side of the TV won't hear center sounds from the center, but if they're way off to the side, they're probably not really into the movie anyway so who cares!! ;) :D

Plus: blending a center with the left/right sides can be tricky, mostly because of the center's wildly different physical location which will always be a significant barrier when trying to achieve a close match, even when using an identical speaker. And for smaller rooms, sometimes using a center can result in an overly "pin-pointy" quality as far as the sounds coming from there. These two reasons are mainly why I don't use a center channel myself.

The Bose Acoustimass: sounds like they were damaged or something, assuming that the receiver's rear channel amps worked and a movie was used that had an active set of rear surround channels. FYI: not all movies use the surround channels regularly and basically any movie made before 1977 will not have ANY surround activity, simply because - except for some isolated examples like Disney's Fantasia - surround sound for movies hadn't been invented yet [though some dvd versions have had their stereo soundtracks remixed into surround]).

Bose are usually overpriced in my and many others' opinions, but IMO their conventional speakers i.e. non-Acoustimass models don't sound THAT bad (though I think their center channel sounds awful). And cone tweeters, while old-skool, if built correctly can sound quite good - their only real problem is they tend to "beam" their sound in a rather narrow angle. And paper is still an excellent choice for speaker cone material: it's light, stiff and has good inherent damping abilities.

Don't know your budget, but I can give some advice for a system based on what kind of movies being regularly watched on it. To use two extremes to illustrate my point:

* modern rambunctious action/adventure movies: use phantom center mode, keep the Bose 21s and buy a subwoofer. If the sub is from a brick-n-mortar retailer, try to spend at least $200 on one.

Such movies usually include immersive and active surround channels which can really add fun to the viewing experience, so I would try to get hold of some speakers for rear channel use as soon as possible.

* pre-1960s American films, and independent and foreign films where the story and acting is everything: phantom mode again; no subwoofer; and replace the 21s with say a pair of Infinity Primus 162s or Boston Acoustic CS26s and use the 21s as rear surrounds for those many TV shows that use Dolby Surround soundtracks (the sound being sourced from a dvd or the TV's or cable box's audio output during a broadcast).
 

wonkamas

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Chris
* modern rambunctious action/adventure movies: use phantom center mode, keep the Bose 21s and buy a subwoofer. If the sub is from a brick-n-mortar retailer, try to spend at least $200 on one.

Ok , thanks this is really really helpful as to be honest I'm just over whelmed w/ how many options and opinions there are out there so it's nice to have a few...."if you have this much , get this" options

So , first I'll try and get a decent Sub and keep the Bose 21's for now
and than some surround / rear speakers (hopefully on the medium/ smaller side to appease my wife) ...any suggestions say I go w/ a sub for $200 and save up and spend the same on the surrounds what should I go for or maybe a better question is what should a minum requirement be...

Thanks again
 

LanceJ

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^ for surround channel speakers, IMO stick with something (no matter what their price point) equipped with at least a 5.25" woofer. Any smaller and I think they will sound small, even with the effects that the rear channels commonly handle (and if you get up and listen to what comes out of those channels like this audio nerd does :D, on many modern action movies, you know they can be loud & aggressive!).

A couple entry-level speakers:

Pioneer S-HF21-LR (full review, and the reviewer really liked them)

Only around $50 per pair from parts-express.com but because Pioneer builds their own drivers (i.e. woofers, tweeters, etc), that saves a large chunk of money for the customer.* And, these are really plain looking, no wood or any extraneous decoration and that keeps the price low too. I've heard them myself and liked them. They do require a little more power to operate than some other small speakers, but that is normal for a small speaker that generates the bass this little speaker is capable of (generally speaking only "large" speakers can produce lots of bass without needing lots of power to do so).

Sony SS-B1000

I thought the previous version sounded quite good for their price point. I don't much like Sony's non-ES electronics but their speakers (I've listened to others besides these) & subwoofers have sounded fine to me, and usually look nice too.

BTW, Polk Audio speakers get mentioned a lot but personally speaking - speakers are a very subjective purchase! - I think they sound too analytical and bright, in other words you hear every little detail.........which on the surface sounds like a good idea but many of us find that to be tiring in the long run, particularly with music (and badly recorded music, say like much punk and metal, can really try your patience).

BTW2: spec charts and graphs can help one figure out some things about a piece of audio gear, but I would not 100% rely on them - you eventually have to go listen for yourself since everyone hears differently and everyone has different preferences.

Anyway........

Up one (significant) level:

Infinity Primus P152

Infinitys in general reproduce lots of detail but without getting on my nerves (there's lots of things you can do to a speaker's various components - tweeter dome material, internal crossover design etc - to "tame" certain parts of its sound but still allow other parts to come through nearly untouched).

And this is smaller than I like, but if you have to use a speaker that "disappears" into the room, there's this little JBL I just found & its kinda cute too:

JBL ES10

Larger than I think you're looking for, but just to give you some perspective:

Boston Acoustics with 6.5" woofer

Your receiver should be able to power this with no problem; plus this is my personal favorite size for satellite speakers in a sat + subwoofer system (I have 8" woofers in all my sats, but for most people those are only for really large rooms).

* Pioneer knows what they're doing and also builds hi-end speakers, like these $9,000 per pair EX series speakers.
 

wonkamas

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Chris
Lance, again this is really great and helpful info. I think I will go to the independent audio store up the street and listen to a few but it helps to have a few too look out for in general if someone that seems to have as much knowledge as you do about it says they're good I'm likely to just trust your oppinion.

One last question, a few posts I've read seem to think it's not a good idea to have multiple brands/ different timbres in the equation.

Do you think this is a big deal?

Say I get the Sony Sub , should I than be locked into getting Sony everything else?
 

LanceJ

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Nah, subwoofers are pretty much standalone speakers as far as sound quality. But no matter what some spec chart says, subs CAN sound very different from each other and if you want, you can try to match one to your particular sats.

For example, sealed subs generally have a smoother and cleaner quality than most ported subs - this matches nicely with those Viennas or pre-1996 Advents (not as refined - they cost much less! - but still have a soft-ish/warm personality). On the other hand, ported subs generally have a bit more kick to them: for example Cerwin-Vega's subwoofers don't go quite as low frequency-wise as many other brands' similar-sized subs, but in exchange they have a more punchy "exciting" sound.* I think this would match up well with Polk Audio, JBL or (obviously) Cerwin-Vega sats.

Personally I just pick out a sub that sounds good to me. Simple. Low bass, like the higher treble frequencies, is a really "personal" thing and should be chosen with your gut.
htf_images_smilies_smile.gif



* a nice side effect of this design decision is that they don't require an amp as powerful as those other subs, which helps keep their price down (the lower the bass note, the more power required to reproduce it). And when I say they don't go as low as other brands, that is a relative statement: CV's larger subs can still rattle windows and shake your couch!
 

wonkamas

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Chris



Ok, so I think I like the JBL option you mentioned for my satalites as I've had pretty good experience w/ JBL products before but will probably get a decent Sub first.

Do you thin Cerwin Vega is the good option in the $200 range?

Also as far as the front channels if I do like your recommended in the first reply and just go w/ the phantom center channel for now and keep my Bose 21's until I can get 3 newer / same timbred speakers I shouldn't have to worry about that part?
 

LanceJ

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Yes, don't worry. The 21s aren't the height of sonic quality but IMO they are not garbage either, and the sub will make a much more positive (and fun) difference as far as watching say The Matrix or a Star Wars prequel than would better-quality front channels.


* and despite what the spec-charts-are-everything crowd and some bass hedz preach, a pair of large floorstanders, positioned correctly, CAN have great bass that is clean, deep and powerful, and you don't need a $1,000 external power amp to allow that to happen. Keep in mind many HT super-hobbyists listen to their systems at reference level all the time (ref level is way too loud for me) and in my opinion that can really skew their opinions when advising others about speaker & subwoofer purchases.
 

LanceJ

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BTW here's a properly-conducted comparison test of budget bookshelf speakers I found while looking for something else:

Budget Bookshelf Speaker Shootout 2009

"Properly conducted" because this was a blind test among other things, so personal bias was mostly eliminated (such tests are looked down upon by many audiophile sites, which for some reason think any test that involves the slightest hint of facts or science is almost evil :rolleyes).

A bookshelf I wish they had tested (maybe they tested it previously?):

Cambridge SoundWorks Model Six

It's not small, it's definitely not sexy, it's been around since the early 90s and it doesn't use any "hi-tech" parts. But it WAS designed by the one of the most respected speaker designers ever, closely based one of his own highly successful speakers of the same name that sold like crazy in the 60s and 70s. And is only a $150 pair these days. Though like any piece of audio gear, these speakers aren't for everyone: for example their sound is quite the opposite of the Cerwins i.e. they are laid back and have a "comfortable" sonic personality (I used to sell HT gear for 3 years and these were among our offerings).
 

wonkamas

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Chris
Thanks again Lance for giving such an informative response.

So are you saying that Cerwin Vegas are only sold online?
 

LanceJ

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^ Someone must sell Cerwins in a brick-n-mortar store, though I will admit when I was looking for retail prices on them last year, I realized I wasn't seeing them at such stores i.e. Circuit City, Frys, etc. J&R Music World - IIRC they have a large store in Manhattan - used to sell them until late in 2007.

DCM, now owned by MTX, used to sell speakers much like CVs (large ported enclosures with 10" and 12" woofers) at Circuit City for example where I listened to them several times, then CC stopped selling those. Large speakers like that just don't appeal to b&m retailers for some reason, even though I keep seeing people in various forums that have recently bought them (and searching on Youtube will bring up various CV videos) so unfortunately I have to assume they bought them online, not my personal favorite way of auditioning speakers.

Cerwin-Vega also sells their gear from their own site. Until my job fell victim to budget cuts, their dual 8" subwoofer was on my list to audition - I like its thin profile because my "mancave" is only 14' x 11' and a cubical sub would be kind of in the way.

But really, don't narrow your choices to this one company. There are many other sub manufacturers, and if you're handy with carpentry tools, building a sub is an option too (I've never done it but it seems pretty straightforward).
 

wonkamas

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Lance, so I took your advice and bought the Cerwin Vega dual 8" sub online tonight I found it on Amazon for 207. and seemed like a pretty good deal and all the reviews seemed pretty good as well.

I went in my local brick and mortar shop today and all the options seemed too much out of my price range so I decided to just go w/ this one on impulse.

I think my pops is going to hook me up w/ some surrounds for my bday in a few weeks too so I'll let you know how the finished product turns out.

Thanks again, Chris
 

LanceJ

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^ Glad I could help! If you have the time, after living with the Cerwin for awhile maybe write a couple lines with your impressions of it.
 

CB750

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Many on this form knock the Bose cube speakers and I have to agree they are over priced for what they are and are sold using fishy demonstrations at
Bose stores that you cannot duplicate at home with your own music sources.

However, that being said my old Bose 901 Series II are perhaps one of the finest two channel stereo systems that you can find to listen to stereo only music. Bose made its name and reputation on that system back in the 1970's and it has allowed them to make lots of money in the last 40 or so years.

I always felt the problem with the Bose cubes is the fact that the speakers are so small that they don't have the ability to put out any bass or lower mid range and therefore placing all of the requirements for that frequency range on their less than adequate sub. You will be hard pressed to find any any satellite system with enclosures as small as the Bose cubes that work much better.
 

wonkamas

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Chris
Lance, this is a pretty late reply to this but since our last posts I purchased a Cerwin Vega 8" dual tower Sub, and just recently got some polk audio satalite speakers from my Dad to complete the surround sound!!!

The one problem I'm having though seems to be the center channel- I set my receiver to no center setting, and have front left and right speakers on either side of my tv and even though I'm sitting right in front of it when watching it seems that all the other sounds especially the low frequency bass sounds over power the voice/ center channel sounds.

Is this because A. my Sub is just set to high I only have it at a bit less than half volume though and in the channel settings on my reciever I set the Sub to 2 decibels less than the rest of the speakers B. Somethings wrong w/ the way I have it set up C. The other speakers are just over powering the "phantom center" sounds

just seems like I'm having to turn it up alot when conversation is on and than have to turn it way down when there's any kind of boom or anything in the movie.

I guess just looking for a way to balance it out w/o losing the effects of the Sub and surround.

Thanks






 

LanceJ

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Hi Chris: I also notice sometimes that center channel sounds are a bit difficult to hear but this also happens with HT systems that *include* a separate center channel speaker. It seems to be caused by the fact that the center signal itself was mixed at that level back in the studio. As unexpected (and kinda spooky!) as it seems, after reading articles and forums in professional mags and websites for years now, mixing for movies, TV and music isn't always done 100% perfectly.

This is one of the advantages of using a separate center speaker i.e. being able to turn it up when watching such a dvd or movie on cable or OTA HD broadcast (the center can also be adjusted on older receivers with Dolby Pro-Logic).

I don't think the level problem has much if anything to do with the level on your sub. Usually if the sub is turned up too high, it simply adds some "warmth" to the rest of the speakers' output and a more obvious effect is that say a cat's delicate foot (paw?) steps instead feel like the T-rex on Jurassic Park. :D

FYI: don't worry about the specific numbers used on a sub's gain control or the receiver's sub level display. What's important is that the volume level that you actually hear in your room is correct. Because X sub may need its gain knob set 3/4 of the way up with Z receiver to produce the same level as another sub with its knob set only 1/4 of the way up with the same receiver.

But to get the most out of your system, make sure you calibrate the system's levels, either by ear using the receiver's test tone generator (the least accurate method); by using the receiver's built-in calibration system (YPAO, MCACC, Audyssey, etc) or the most accurate method, using a sound meter and calibration disc (personally I am not that into "accuracy" and have never bothered with this method).
 

wonkamas

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Chris
Thanks again Lance, so if Im hearing you correctly it will just kind of depend on the movie and how it's mixed.

I also read on some articles that the Midnight mode can help and it seems like it did a bit.

I also think I will have to play w/ the sub volume mainly to appease my wife when she's listening and for myself when she's not!!! She doesn't appreciate it.

One more slightly different question so when I hook my ipod or laptop to my reciever via a 3.5 mm to rca cable I find that the volume is way lower than when listening to my TV which is connected via coaxial cable.

Is the difference because one's an analog connection and the other is digital?

It's mainly annoying say if someone's listening to the ipod and than switches to the TV and get's blared out of their seats.

Is their such a thing as a coaxial / digital connection for ipods? / 3.5mm connections?

Thanks as always
 

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