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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am in the process of (getting ready) to replace my old Bose Lifestyle 12 HT system.
It has served me well but with all the new formats out there I am tired of the proprietary issue with Bose. I have already gone to BestBuy to start listening to some speakers in their higher end home theater store. I was listening to the Bowers and Wilkins speakers but was not overly impressed with their sound. They sound good but not great. Surprisingly I actually like to wood version over their synthetic version. I am sorry I do not remember the models.

So I am looking to the vast knowledge here to help steer my in the right direction. I understand speakers are subjective to the listener. My budget is aroun $1500 for everything (5.1), speakers, receiver, base.

I am struggling to find other options on where I can find speakers to listen to in my area (South of Boston).
Any information you are willing to provide would be greatly appreciated.

Sorry but I should have mentioned I am looking for bookshelf type speakers to fit the space I have available.

Thank you.

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So I am looking to the vast knowledge here to help steer my in the right direction. I understand speakers are subjective to the listener. My budget is aroun $1500 for everything (5.1), speakers, receiver, base.
Are speakers subjective to the listener, though? They have a goal - to reproduce a source. How do you subjectively reproduce something - to me the word reproduce means to make something as similar to the original as possible - so the idea of a good speaker to me can by definition not be subjective. I mean, there's always compromises and tradeoffs which we do subjectively decide between, but the ultimate goal (accurate reproduction) is very much "objective". If you're ever interested, perhaps take a look at Dr. Floyd Toole's book "Sound Reproduction".

As for whether certain speakers "impress" or not, well that's a whole nother issue. It's easy to hype up certain frequencies that "impress" untrained listeners, especially with poor recordings (IE Pop Music). It trades off fidelity for boom and tizz. Bose is a brand well known for this in fact and thier speakers are as far from striving for fidelity as it gets. As a general rule, it might take a week or two to get used to living with a good set of speakers, but once you go back to colored "impressive" speakers you start to hear just what you were missing all along.

Now let's start with a robust budget receiver: I recommend a refurbished Marantz SR5004. The only major modern feature you'll really be without would be 3D should you select this. What you will get is a reliable voltage supply, high current capability, a future-ready pre-out section, and compatibility with most modern audio codecs.

Next come stereo mains. In my opinion it's worth it to forego a center and surrounds altogether if you can get a truly good pair of dynamic, quality mains. So one recommendation I'll give you is a pair of EMP Tek e55ti (not the e5ti) tower speaker from their scratch and dent section:


You can check the scratch and dent page of each individual speaker to see where and what any blemishes might be. These things can play wonderfully loud, have a wide sweet spot, sweet detail, and a pretty big soundstage. Can I guaruntee you'll "love the speakers"?? Of course not. But I do think that it will make the source content (Movies, Music) more enjoyable to have a relaxed, natural, detailed, clean presentation that can handle loud dynamic transients effortlessly - and isn't that the goal in the first place?

The next most important thing would be subwoofer. Good stereo mains can act as a phantom center pretty well, and surround information is usually pretty minor, but a true subwoofer is vital to a fun experience.

I don't know how you feel about DIY, but if you're interested that would be my initial suggestion. OTherwise I recommend getting two of these:


Why two? Because it cleans up the response inside the room and keeps any single spot from become too bass-less or bass-heavy. I might be able to think of something a bit more affordable at the cost of performance, but either way, I'm going to strongly recommend dual subs. I think these would do excellently though if you consider them.

I think that about does it with your budget.

After buying stereo mains and dual mono subs, two surrounds aren't a bad idea either. I would suggest Behringer 2030Ps:

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=248-6038&FTR=Behringer 2030P

And if you thought the EMPs from earlier were too expensive as stereo mains, consider buying two Behringer 2031Ps instead:


The 2031Ps are 4 ohm speakers so you don't want to run them off of just any receiver. The Narantz I suggested should deal with this finely however by my guess.

Finally we get to the most difficult question - the center channel speaker. Center speakers that sound good are pretty rare IMO... much of the time you're better off with using stereo mains as a phantom center. Indeed, many setups sound more natural without a center - because centers naturally do many things wrong.

If you can afford to place one of these behringer 2031Ps vertically above or below or behind your screen, that would be my number one suggestion. They have a controlled, and very smooth dispersion pattern which means every seat should be a good one, and they have a natural midrange sound. The caveat is that they are TALL - not practical as centers!

Another recommendation would be the Seas Loki - A DIY kit with some light assembly. It is a coaxial 6.5" driver so you can't expect to listen to it extremely loud but it should handle movie vocals cleanly, while having a controlled and smooth dispersion pattern and a point source presentation. I think it's a very fine choice, and most dynamic content in movies is in the left/right/sub channels any ways.

I also like the Revel C12 center speaker: you can try out their dealer locator here and hopefully get a deal on this center speaker (while also auditoning their Concerta speakers although price wise they are probably out of the question. This is a waveguide-loaded WTMW center speaker. It's a bit higher end but it's a good option for reproducing movie vocals while having a wide dispersion. It's not quite as controlled as previous options but at least the off axis response is fair.

One last, far more expensive suggestion would be the JTR Single 8HT

Expensive, yes, but sometimes you need to go all or nothing if you actually want some improvement. But one thing it will do is handle the vocals in movies effortlessly.

Like I said, finding a center speaker is the hardest thing to do, especially on a budget and with space constraints. Often times the best center is truly no center. I also don't subscribe to the "timbre matching" concept. Good speakers don't suffer from vastly poor timbre the way poor speakers do. There's no need to match the "sound" of a center with stereo mains if both options have good on and off axis frequency response - in my opinion. Regardless of what you decide on, I wouldn't really bother with "MTM" center channels. These usually have serious gaps in the midrange sound, especially to anyone sitting off axis. They usually try to make them sound intelligible by making vocals shouty, and the end result is never a speaker you can sit down and "forget is there" and just enjoy the source material.

One final mains speaker recommendation I'll throw in there would be JBL 2328Ps:


This is an active loudspeaker so a receiver with pre-out jacks is vital. It sounds really clean.
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