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post #1 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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Monitors - Where to Start?

I'm sure that many of you have preceded me in this next step of my HT evolution. I've come to the beginning of my search for the great "hi-fi" monitors.

Right now I have Polk RTi28 mains and a Polk CSi30 center. They sound fine, but they're definately mid-fi in terms of definition and dynamics.

I'm at the very beginning of putting together a list of speakers to audition and I'd appreciate your recommendations.

My HT is in my living room, which dictates less than ideal speaker placement. The TV is in a corner and my bookshelf speakers flank it. Way to close too the wall for tower speakers (right?) and I think that front firing monitor speakers are what I want. I don't want ports firing out the back into the wall and corner. Since I set the mains to "small" and crossover to the sub at 80 Hz, I don't think chuffing is going to be an issue with front ports.

$500 for a pair? $1000? I don't want to think about upgrading again anytime soon, so I want to do it right.

What do you recommend for killer HT? If I could sum up what I'm looking for in one word it would be "Dramatic."

P.S. Sonnie - I noticed you just replaced some PSB Images. Any comments on the performance (or shortcomings) of those?
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post #2 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 12:21 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

Yep.... PSB Image 6T's with a 9C center and a pair of 10S surrounds.

Folks will say, "are you crazy?"... but I will tell you that those PSB's are mightly fine speakers and for the difference in money between them and the VMPS speakers... I'd just as soon keep the PSB's. They are truly awesome speakers and I would highly recommend you consider them. You might even cosider the Stratas line.

There are so many fine speaker companies out there it's hard to choose for me. If I were looking to spend 1000 bucks it would be super tough.... but PSB would be on my front list.

I'd also consider Klipsch... which you'll probably either hate or love.

I'm gonna have a bunch of links to various speaker manufacturers in the menu bar up top real soon.

I'm sure others will throw some recommendations your way too.
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post #3 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 01:19 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

Ooooo.. such an open ended question. So many choices, where to start. I'm actually a little jealous of you right now.. I love the whole research/investigate/etc process, especially regarding speakers since, to me, upgrades in this area are going to make the biggest changes to the overall sound of the system.

Well, here's what I'd say..
1) Listen to as many different speakers as you can.
2) Since you're going for the good stuff, avoid the big box retailers (e.g., Best Buy). Their stuff is ok, but you're looking for good, and the good stuff is usually at the smaller boutique shops, even at moderate prices ($500-$1000/pair)
3) Some argue against this, but I say listen to some speakers that are WAY out of your price range. This will demonstrate what speakers are really supposed to sound like. From there, you can audition the speakers in your price range and know what to look for.
4) When you audition the speakers in the store, take movie/music that you know well. Have a set order you listen to tracks and take notes -- for example, speaker x mushed the bass on song Y, but the singers voice was clear. Stuff like that. You'll be doing a lot of leg work, and it will be too hard to remember which speakers were actually good for your tastes.
5) When you've narrowed your choice to 2-3 speakers, audition them in your home. The room the speakers play in makes a HUGE difference in the way they sound. Most boutique audio stores allow in-home auditions.
6) I think going for bookshelves is going to be the best for your budget. In my experience, I've found that comparatively priced bookshelves sound better than floor standers in that price range. They are also more flexible in where you put them, so in a tight situation like yours, it seems like a no brainer.

As for specific speakers, speakers are too much of a personal preference thing to say "buy these". That being said, MY favorite in that price range are the Paradigm Studio 20's. Relatively small bookshelf speaker that, at least to me, sounds awesome. Very neutral and natural sounding. But again, that's me. Other brands that I'd listen to would include Klipsch, Polk, Def Tech, Boston, KEF, etc. Another speaker to look at if you don't mind a more industrial look is the Mackie 824. It's a powered 2 way monitor that sounds AMAZINGLY good (again, at least to me) that'd put you back about $1,200 for the pair. Since they're powered, you need to use your pre-outs on your receiver to get them the audio signal. The only downside, they're REALLY not pretty.

There are many others, those just seem to get the most attention from what I've read on the net. If you wanted to really jump out of your price range, I listened to some Dynaudio speakers a little while ago that I LOVED, but they are a BIT more.. I've already forgotten how much they cost, but if I were rich and famous, those would be on my short list.

A follow up question.. exactly how far from the back wall would your speakers be? There is some rule of thumb about how far a rear ported speaker is supposed to be away from the wall (I can't remember it though), but it's not as much as you might think.

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post #4 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 05:24 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

I recently ungraded from floorstanders to bookshelves and the best advice is demo as many speakers as you can and with your own music, preferably something that you know really well. Having a few different styles of music is also a good idea. When I auditioned speakers I had a classical cd, Nick Cave, Tori Amos, AC/DC, White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Sex Pistols etc etc. It is time consuming but rewarding when you finally find the right speaker for you. Read reviews as well but bear in mind that they are almost always subjective and not everyone has the same tastes at all.

Am not sure of pricing or availabilty in the States but try and listen to Wharfedale, B&W, Usher, Magnat, Quad, Amphion, Tannoy, the list is endless.
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post #5 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 05:44 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

Quote:
Fincave wrote:
I recently ungraded from floorstanders to bookshelves and the best advice is demo as many speakers as you can and with your own music, preferably something that you know really well. Having a few different styles of music is also a good idea. When I auditioned speakers I had a classical cd, Nick Cave, Tori Amos, AC/DC, White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Sex Pistols etc etc. It is time consuming but rewarding when you finally find the right speaker for you. Read reviews as well but bear in mind that they are almost always subjective and not everyone has the same tastes at all.

Am not sure of pricing or availabilty in the States but try and listen to Wharfedale, B&W, Usher, Magnat, Quad, Amphion, Tannoy, the list is endless.

..what he said too! I've also heard it's a good idea to bring a spoken word CD. Supposedly, even an untrained ear (like mine) can discern the speaker's coloration of the spoken word easier than when listening to music. To be honest, i've never tried it, but seems intuitive to me.

Of those brands Fincave mentions, B&W and Tannoy are definitely two that I'd check out and are in your price range. I think Usher is just getting into the US market-- and the ones I've seen are probably out of your budget. I like their drivers though .. it's what my DIY speakers used
I'm not sure what the price range on the others are -- which may be a bad sign for affordability..

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post #6 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 06:09 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

I have noticed that often enough changing the € sign for $ sign gives one an idea of what products cost on opposite sides of the pond, bearing that in mind the little Usher (which sounds great btw) can be had in Finland for 400€, the other brands mentioned have models starting at around 300€.

Listening to speakers outside of your budget can be EXPENSIVE
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post #7 of 26 Old 04-28-06, 09:57 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

A lot of good thoughts and recommendations. I might add I was looking not long ago for monitors in the same price range. My final choices came down to the Quad 12L Studio monitors and the Paradigm Studio 20's. I eventually bought the Quads, but keep in mind that once you get to your short list it’s all a mater of personnel tastes and what sounds good to you in your environment (I use environment in a broad sense; room, other speakers, audio gear, type of music). At any rate I agree with others that bookshelf speakers are probably your best choice.

You should think about what you like to hear; detail? imaging? a big sound stage? the 'you are there sound' vs. the 'they are here' sound? etc. etc. When you audition in your home, study these aspects of the sound you hear. Determine what you like, and evaluate accordingly.
Also, since you are setting up an HT system be sure that the sound is good in other seating positions. You don't want speakers with high freq. dispersion so narrow that you need forceps to keep your head in the right position.

If you have the luxury of auditioning a pair of speakers for several days, do it! When people talk about breaking in new speakers, a good deal of what is going on is our ears are breaking in to the new sound we hear (I am probably opening a big can of worms here). Also you need time to see if listener fatigue is setting in. Some speakers that are very impressive when you first hear them are tiresome after listening to them at length.

JCD's suggestion of listening to the spoken word is excellent. It seems the human brain is particularly keen to nuances we hear in speech. I found that listening in the store will only serve to give you an initial first cut on speaker selection. The real test is in you home.

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post #8 of 26 Old 04-29-06, 12:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I definately plan to listen around and take three sets home for some real-life auditioning.

JCD - I looked up the Mackies and they are very intriguing. I was wondering what kinds of speakers the pros use as a reference. I'm definately going to look further into that. Maybe I can fix them up with a homemade grille.

I'll keep you all posted. I'm aware of a couple of places in town where I can hear B&W and Paradigm. I'll have to research the rest. This will be fun.
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post #9 of 26 Old 05-01-06, 05:08 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

From what I've heard, those Mackies are probably the standard when looking at powered studio speakers. There are some that are supposed to be 'better', such as the higher end Genelec's, but the prices go up real quick. At that price point, I don't think there is anything better.. not that I make it a habit of listening to many powered studio monitors of course..

As for prettying them up, a new grill might make them nicer, but (at least for me) the thing that kills is that they only come in the black faux-wood vinyl wrap. For whatever reason, that "look" is just awful to me.

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post #10 of 26 Old 05-01-06, 06:39 PM
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Re: Monitors - Where to Start?

Another thing to consider is used speakers. When you narrow your choice down to a couple of different brands, you can usually find some decent used speakers on Audiogon. I have had some good luck buying and selling there. You can usually get a better speaker for the same money as buying new ones. I bought a pair of 6 year old Martin Logans for less than half of what they cost new. I also bought a pair of Energy Veritas dipoles for a third of their price new. Buying speakers is so much fun!

If you do buy new speakers, make sure you break them in. Every new speaker I have bought has benifited from breaking in. Ok, not every speaker, I had some KLH speakers speakers years ago, and they didn't sound any different after breaking them in.

I remember upgrading to the Energy Veritas from my existing Energy Connesuers, and thinking there was NO difference what so ever. It literally took about 50 for the Veritas speakers to open up. Man, what a difference breaking them in made. It ended up being a VERY BIG difference is sound.


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