Will towers do anything for HT?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Joe S., Apr 24, 2007.

  1. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm in the process of putting together a more dedicated HT in our (soon to be) new home. Right now I have an Outlaw 950/750 setup powering JBL S series center and S36s all around, with an SVS PB-12+/2 (so a 5.1 setup).

    This new home has the space for a projecter and just about any speaker setup I would desire is possible. What I'm wondering is for primarily home movies (DVD, TV, HD-DVD?) should I be looking to have L/R towers to fill out the sound or is that wasteful? Would I be better off with a 7.1 setup of something more basic and solid (like the SVS or outlaw speaker bookshelves), or would like 850s from Rocket do a better job?

    Obviously, the Rockets will sound better, but for HT is it a big gain for all the extra cash, or should I focus on 7.1 with very good bookshelf speakers instead?

    Just wondering what the good folks' opinion is here.
     
  2. tgraham

    tgraham Extra

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    I have been into home theater for about 20 years now and I will admit, I am more of a hobbyist, but having studied and researched the technology out there and having the money to buy almost whatever I wanted, I would suggest you stay with the 5.1 setup and get yourself a good pair of dipoles for your rears. Where the enclosure and circuitry maintains the perfect balance and seamless sound it actually performs sonically better than having more discreet channels back there to deal with. Of course this is my opinion and there are others out there who would disagree, but I know what I like and what sounds good to me and the 5.1 system with dipoles for the rear, to me, outperforms anything else out there.
     
  3. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    Cool, thanks Terry. Any other opinions? Are towers a waste for movies?
     
  4. SHS

    SHS Stunt Coordinator

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    I have never heard the rockets but from the reviews they get it sounds as if they are very good. I have to admit that I think they are the most beautiful speakers I have seen online. I am holding out for the 760's the center & surrounds when I can spare the $.

    They have some great deals with packages and they have dipole surrounds as well, although I don't think they are switchable. This might not matter for you if you will be using them for HT only. I would think that with the 850's you would be listening to 2 channel music and they would be very good.

    It appears that they have just switched to a new manufacturing facility and have backorders. I don't know what that will do for quality but I guess that is always a chance when buying from online sources.

    I have yet to see a bad review on these speakers.

    EDIT: BTW, I think the only thing very good towers might give you over very good bookshelves is more headroom and a deeper bass extension. For HT and for music those can't be bad things...IMO. You will most likely filter out the lower frequencies when using for HT because I'm sure you will be using a sub. For music then the towers themselves should provide the full range desired. Overall, I see no downside to towers for HT except the expense, maybe.
     
  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    As far as I'm concerned, a better speaker is always better, whether it has more headroom, better imaging or just sound better. Whether that means towers or just better bookshelves is kind of up to you. Are they a waste? Absolutely not, but I think maybe you are asking the wrong question.
     
  6. MaxL

    MaxL Supporting Actor

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    i think i'm on board w/ mr rice on this one. in general, i tend to push people away from towers for HT, as i just did on another thread. but that is a generalization. there are exceptions. if you have a tight budget, and HT is your priority, you'd usually be better off with bookshelves and a better sub than a lesser sub and towers, if you follow. but if the tower sounds better to you, it sounds better to you, and that's what matters most.

    the one thing towers generally have going for them over bookshelves is physics. sound is created by moving air, more and/ or larger drivers and cones will move more air more easily. this is especially important when it comes to bass reproduction. but of course, you'll have a sub for that. so it goes...

    moving more air more easily doesn't inherently mean it will sound better. however, besides bass reproduction, it also tends to be beneficial at higher volumes and in larger rooms even into the mid range.

    so, towers, yes or no? yes, yes or no. depending on what you like better...

    see?
     
  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    The fact is, it is too general a question. A good set of bookshelves will be better than a cheap set of towers. A good set of towers will be better than a cheap set of bookshelves. Towers are no good if you don't have room for them. It could go on and on.
     
  8. Paul_Dunlop

    Paul_Dunlop Second Unit

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    ^ yeah that

    I think what happens is that people don't want to buy a set of bookshelves for say $300 - then spend $100 on stands - they would rather buy $350 or $400 towers

    The assumption is that the $100 is wasted - and would be better spent on the towers

    I personally feel that you can't apply normail financial logic to this type of purchase

    If you have $400 - it is better spent on $300 bookshelves and then $100 on stands - than on $400 towers

    My opinion is that you need to 'jump' to $500-$600 towers to get the same quality as the $300 bookshelves

    Also, some people like to say - "look how cool my towers are - aren't they big?"
     
  9. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    My gut feeling is this, but I haven't shopped speakers in years. Unless you are willing to spend at least 1.5-2K and have the room to utilize them, you are probably better off not getting floorstanding speakers. They are just expensive to make well, but if you have the budget, go for it.
     
  10. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, this is the type of info I was looking for.

    So to rephrase the question: Totally discounting music and ONLY talking about HT and movies, are towers worth the extra expense over good bookshelf speakers? The answer I'm hearing is no, unless you have very picky tastes and/or money to burn...

    I have the money, I have the space, but what I'm trying to figure out is what does that extra $$$ spent get me? If I can get by with good bookshelves for 90% of my HT use, then I could apply that money elsewhere for more impact.

    Thanks again to all for the discussion.
     
  11. Paul_Dunlop

    Paul_Dunlop Second Unit

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    I also haven't bought new speakers for a while, so I think I should amend my post about going to $500 or $600 towers
    It should definitely be higher than that

    I am using a 5.1 system that I started buying about 6 yrs ago

    I recently bought some used towers from that model line for $450 CDN - but they were $900 list price 6 yrs ago

    So my advice - buy an excellent pair of bookshelves and a nice pair of stands

    You will be happy as hell with them and can always move them to the rear duty, if you decide to go 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 later on
    - or you can buy 3 sets of them and be really happy with your bookshelf setup!
     
  12. Blaine_M

    Blaine_M Second Unit

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    Paradigm has some newer versions of some reasonably priced tower speakers out now, I've listened to a pair and thought they sounded excellent for the price they were. If you've got a dealer near you and you are interested, check them out. Personally I build my own GR Research AV-3 towers and I've been very happy with them.
     
  13. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    Paul - That's the route I'm leaning right now. Get a 7 speaker setup of the SVS SCS speakers and use my SVS PB12+/2 for the time being. I can assess their mid-tower MTS line whenever it arrives and maybe buy a set of those for L/R if desired.

    The other towers I was eyeballing were the Strata Minis. They look fantastic IMHO, but the price for a pair is more than the entire SCS 7 speaker setup and frankly is overkill for my modest HT needs.
     
  14. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    I, on the other hand, upgraded my speakers a couple of months ago and opted to go with towers. First of all I didn't have a firm budget, more of a "ballpark" figure. And I'm not afraid to admit that the "wow" factor played a small part in it [​IMG]. But the main reason was that I felt the towers were a better match for the center channel. And that's how I found my speakers. I looked for a really good center speaker and then chose the fronts and surrounds from what they had to offer. The towers better fit my personal needs of price, value, performance, etc and a little "wow". But a good center is what I was really looking for because most brands have many bookshelves and towers to chose from, but very few centers, by comparison. I'm mostly music btw. Well, concert dvd's actually.
     
  15. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Joe, it seems quite apparent to me you had already decided the answer to your question before you even asked it. You clearly want to hear that towers are a waste for HT unless you "have money to burn". I'm not meaning to be confrontational. It just seems clear what you want to hear, so go ahead with that plan.

    Speaking in such generalities doesn't really lead to useful answers. Now, if you compared a specific bookshelf and a specific floorstander, there might be a chance for a more meaningful answer. For whatever reason, HTF has become a seriously pro bookshelf forum, so that is generally the answer you will receive. Unfortunately, without knowing anything as basic as a rough budget, there really is no reasonable answer to your question.
     
  16. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    Then I guess you were quite apparantly wrong John. Bookshelf was the direction I was leaning, but not having a depth of personal knowledge about towers (never owning any) I thought it prudent to explore them and make a query. Apologies if I offended your surperior speaker sensibility or ... well, whatever it is that has you twisted up.

    What I wanted to know is for just HT (TV, DVDs, video games) is it worth increasing the price of the front speakers by $1.5k, and how much better sound would that buy? Or if the gain for HT is incremental, would it be a smarter use of that money to put it to work elsewhere (like say a better receiver?) I don't care about musicality, I'm not a hardcore audiophile.

    What I'm hearing is that for HT use only, a good pair of bookshelves can get at least 80% of the performance of good set of towers for most uses (assuming I have a good sub.) I thought it might be so, it seems it is true.

    I would consider moving from say VHS -> DVD as a huge jump in quality. Or going from 480i -> 720p as a quantum shift. We don't even need to discuss which VHS vs. which DVD player - it's so obvious that it's superior so as to require little debate. Bookshelves -> Towers for HT doesn't seem to be in the same league. Seems more of a 720p vs 1080i question. It's better of course, but it's not head and shoulders better and not if the rise in cost is substantial.

    This is what I wanted to know: big difference or little difference? Of course it's not a "waste", that was a poor choice of words in my initial post.
     
  17. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Well, assuming a competent subwoofer, then well maybe not. But I would say the argument for bookshelves for music listening is actually far stronger than for HT use. For HT use, you're more likely concerned with dynamics and such, which a speaker with more ways may be able to handle easier, which of course necessitates a larger baffle area, naturally you find this on larger floorstanders, or those kind of in-between speakers.

    Price no issue, I'd go towers. But price is always an issue, and at any particular pricepoint, going bookshelves(assuming an appropriate subwoofer in the system) is going to give you better performance especially for music, IMO.

    In any particular speaker line, by the time you move up to the towers, you could likely buy bookshelves at basically the same price from a superior line, and that will give far more improvement.

    So for instance, if you had bookshelves at say $1K/pr, the floorstanding equivalent of that speaker may be $2K/pr. But there may be a bookshelf at $2K/pr, and so at say the $2K pricepoint, I would pick the bookshelves all day long, simply for far better performance on the stuff that really matters especially with music. But if we compare the $1K bookshelves with the equivalent tower, certainly I would ideally prefer the tower if we don't consider budget and we don't consider other possibilities at the pricepoint of the tower.
     
  18. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Joe, I'll just disregard your first comment and say that my frustration is not so much with you as with the general perception so many HTF members seem to have developed. All I can guess is, most of them haven't ever heard many good floor standing speakers. In fact, after the last post, I wonder why any manufacturers even make them. that is, aside from appealing to teen age boys who want to say "look at how big my speakers are".

    I suggest you seek some first hand experience. See if there are any dealers around who carry Vandersteen, Magnepan, Martin-Logan or one of the other high quality, but not outrageously priced floor standing speakers. By this, I don't mean Polk, even B&W or some of the other more heavily marketed brands. Seek out a store which carries some of these and know how to demonstrate them. They all produce a sound you will never get from a bookshelf. That doesn't mean they will be what you want, but you should at least hear them before reaching a conclusion.
     
  19. Joe S.

    Joe S. Stunt Coordinator

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    Fair enough John, I'll look into that. I have heard Magnepan, but for HT the ribbon tweeter sounded a bit flat. Music/strings/voices was phenomenally good - just the 'punch' was missing for the DVDs I reviewed.

    I check out Vandersteen and Martin-Logan, what product level of theirs should I be looking at?
     
  20. MaxL

    MaxL Supporting Actor

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    you've GOT to be kidding!

    no, not all audio signals are the same. and no, we don't necessarily want the same qualities for music and HT, especially on a budget when having to make compromises. but a great speaker is a great speaker. we may prefer different kinds of sound, but i don't believe a speaker's going to sound "phenomenally good" on music and flat for HT. i don't buy it. unless you're saying you think flat makes for phenomenally good music but crappy HT. sorry...

    it's entirely possible that maggies may sound flat to you, for many reasons. but if they sound flat that's not really going to change depending on source unless one recording is flat and one isn't.

    in general the test of a speaker is not vs another speaker but vs the original sound. for example a real piano vs a recorded piano through a given speaker. the ideal is an inability to distinguish the real sound from the recorded sound. speakers that are most likely to reach this ideal are full range speakers, and most full range speakers are towers of one description or another. there are exceptional stand mounted speakers as well, but most require a sub too. to go back to the top of the speaker mountain again, let's look at wilson audio's top models. they are essentially sats using passive subs as stands.

    there is a lot more to creating this kind of sound reproduction than just having a great speaker. recording, player, amplification, room acoustics all play important roles. there's little point to running an amazing speaker with average signals - you just get to hear exactly what's lacking. likewise, a great signal is lost on mediocre speakers. it's all about a balanced system.

    there is another reason why some of the best speakers are not ideal for HT, that's the lack of matching centers. high end audio has seen many great speakers before the advent of HT. most new speakers do have matching centers available now, so this isn't as big an issue if you're buying new.

    so the best speaker may be a tower or a bookshelf. what makes it best is how it sounds to you. the more price is an issue and the lower the budget, the more likely that bookshelves are the way to go. the further you're willing to go in pursuit of the ideal sound, the more likely you are to wind up with a tower in your setup. but it isn't hard to imagine a 5 figure audiophile 2.1 channel setup using stand mounted monitors happily over towers.

    so do go out and listen. that outlaw rig should do well with many higher end speakers. listen to speakers above and below your budget, bookshelves and towers. don't worry about bass extension as you'll use any towers with a sub too. don't worry about which line. listen to them all. you'll hear the difference or you won't and that (along with your credit/ bank account) will determine what you're willing to pay. just remember, a very revealing system reveals ugly just as well as beautiful, so if you have some crappy recordings you like, they may sound worse, not better.
     

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