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Sprucing Up the Second System

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by JohnRice, Jul 4, 2019.

  1. Message #1 of 7 Jul 4, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
    JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Like a lot of people, I have a main HT in a dedicated room, but also have a second system that gets more regular use, in a more central part of the house. In the past, this system was kind of a hand-me-down one, sort of cobbled together with stuff that was replaced in the main system, or was just cheap. I was content with that, even though that system is used pretty much every day of the week, and the good system is used only once or twice a week. I think what spoiled that was when I decided to replace the serviceable but very ordinary sounding Polk Monitor 70s with a pair of ELAC Debut B6.2s for L&R. That kind of ruined my willingness to accept "serviceable" from the sound in that system. The ELACs are remarkably good for the price. So, the urge to improve the entire system has been eating at me since late last year.

    The old system was...

    Marantz SR5004 receiver
    Polk Monitor 70 L&R
    Polk Monitor CS1 Center
    Polk Monitor 30 surrounds
    BIC F12 Subwoofer


    Currently, the spruced-up system is...

    Marantz SR7012 receiver
    ELAC Debut B6.2 L&R on Pangea LS 200 stands
    ELAC Debut C6.2 Center
    Polk Monitor 30 surrounds
    SVS SB2000 subwoofer

    I thought I might post thoughts on the how the new setup compares to the old, as things occur to me, in a series of posts. Also, I'd like to entertain questions.

    So, fire away...
     
    Sam Posten likes this.
  2. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    first I guess I'll say a little about the ELAC Debut speakers. For a long time it's seemed like choosing speakers is too emotional a process. It's easy, and common, to choose the most "exciting" sounding speaker. Why wouldn't you? The problem is, you need to live with those speakers, and exciting tends to lead to fatigue in the long run. The ELACs are easy to overlook, because they're very polite speakers. They don't tend to WOW in ways that a lot of people are looking for. They DO wow in one way, that I think is easy for a lot of people to miss, because many of us are not geared to listen for it, and the way speakers are demoed doesn't allow it to come through. That's "Imaging", or the ability of a pair of speakers to NOT sound simply like a pair of speakers. When the Debuts are set up properly, they create a soundstage I've never heard from anything anywhere near their $300 price. I have them on stands, two feet in front of the wall behind them. Aimed straight ahead.

    I've learned that with wide dispersion speakers, which these are, you want them away from surfaces and into the room. It was a learning process that took years for me to discover with the speakers in my main system, Thiel CS3.6. It wasn't until I finally moved those four feet from the wall that they finally opened up the way they are supposed to. Fortunately, they are in a room where that can be done, but it would be overkill with the ELACs. Plus, that wouldn't work very well in a regular living space, which is where the ELACs are. However, with their backs two feet from the wall, to the sides of an open audio rack with the audio gear and TV on it, the placement is perfectly natural. FWIW, the manual suggests having 1-2 feet of open space on all sides of the speakers. I would say 2 feet is a minimum on the sides, and probably a maximum behind them.

    I said these speakers are "polite" sounding. That politeness really shines with music. They are wonderfully musical, and the imaging I mentioned plays a big part in that. I find myself listening to a lot of music on this system now. Not just in the background like I used to, but sitting listening to music. For years I only listened to music on the main system, since it's the only one that can reproduce music well. Don't get me wrong, the ELACS don't match the Thiels, but they do a remarkable job. For their price, they are downright amazing. If the Thiels were still made today, they would probably retail for 40x the price of the ELACs. It shouldn't even be close, but I can amazingly mention them in the same sentence.

    Fortunately, the ELACs are only moderately difficult to drive. This is very much unlike the Thiels, which are remarkably difficult to drive. No receiver could ever dream of coming close to handling them. Even the lower end Marantz SR5004 I originally used did a very nice job with the Debuts. The SR7012 is even better, especially with it's superior DACs and circuitry.

    BTW, so far, I am not using any EQ or room correction. I might never use that. I want to hear the speakers, not processing. I'd much rather set up the system as ideally as possible, and use as little (or no) processing to "fix" things. Maybe I'm a little old school that way, but I feel that these days there is far too much of a tendency to set up the system badly and expect processing to make it right.
     
  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I guess I'll comment on the SVS SB-2000 subwoofer. It's the one item I'm unsure of in the new system. So far I'm a little underwhelmed. I was hoping for better extension, but I also might need to experiment a little more with placement and calibration. One thing I discovered is that I needed to adjust the phase 180 degrees. I shouldn't need to do that, but I noticed there was a drop in the crossover area between it and the ELACs. That improved things. It is definitely better than the BIC F12 it replaced, but I was hoping it would come a little closer to the SVS PB12 Plus2 I have downstairs. The bigger SVS has the ability to produce low bass that feels like a fan has been aimed at me. Of course, it also can kind of lose control and produce chuffing when it's really pushed to it's extreme. I got some feedback from Tom Vodhanel (Who is the "V" in SVS, designed the sub and subsequently started PowerSound Audio) a few years ago here on HTF on a change to the configuration. He suggested a combination that is different from the manual. That helped with the control issues, but as he said, he's learned a lot about sub design in the 20 years since he designed that model. Still, it's a remarkably capable sub. Anyway, being sealed, the SB-2000 will never have the loss of control that the PB12 Plus2 can have. It's a trade off.

    The upside on the SB-2000 is that even though it doesn't quite do what I had hoped, it never does anything it shouldn't. It's always in control, owing to the sealed cabinet. It's also extremely small. I mean, it looks tiny. A 14" cube is a lot smaller than it sounds, when you're used to rather large subs. It's dwarfed even by the BIC.

    Still, the bottom line at the moment is that I was hoping for better from the SB-2000. It doesn't seem to be extending quite as far as I'd hoped. I bought it as an open box with warranty for $150 less than the $700 retail. If I'd spend $700 instead of $550, I think I'd be unhappy. However, to be fair, the jury is still out. I haven't had it long enough to really know what it's capable of, so keep tuned.
     
  4. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Nice! I heartily recommend having multiple sound systems in a house. I lost count on how many I have =)
     
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  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Yeah, I have three in my house and I'm getting ready to upgrade one of those to Dolby Atmos.
     
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  6. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I like being able to play music all over the house, and I do have three surround systems to some degree. Even if the bedroom is only 3.1. I can see the living room, which has a vaulted ceiling, being upgraded to 5.1.4 at some time, now that I have the receiver to make it possible. There's already a bunch of pre-wiring to help, but I'd still have to surface mount speakers and run some surface wire to a couple of them. The rear Atmos speakers are essentially already pre-wired, more or less. The room was built almost 40 years ago and it certainly wasn't planned for it, but it just worked out that way.
     
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  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I'm getting a better sense of the SB2000 subwoofer, and I'm getting happier with it. One very noticeable thing is that it produces distinct notes. That might sound like a funny comment, but a lot of subs have "One Note" syndrome. Not this one.
     

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