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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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.

JCD
 

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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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Fincave said:
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 :sn:
I'm not sure what the price range on the others are -- which may be a bad sign for affordability..

JCD
 

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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:D
 

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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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Discussion Starter #8
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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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..:rolleyes:

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.

JCD
 

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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.


Jeff Aguilar
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I surfed across this

"The monitors (Mackie HR624) are clearer than the Polks (LSi7)...Surprisingly enough, despite the clarity on the monitors, there are some tracks I have prefered *without* the extra bit (of information?) from the Mackies, and have enjoyed it more on the Polks...on the Mackies, the percussion sounds so good, its like what you would expect to hear live. The Polks still sound great, but still sound like a speaker...You can hear so clearly every 'croak' (got a better word?) and alteration in Diana Kralls voice on the Mackies. The Polks give a good voice, but lacks a certain detail."

He decided to go with the Polks. Which leads me to wonder, which of you prefer a more detailed, informative or revealing system, and which of you would prefer a more euphonic one that might hide the waeknesses in a soundtrack or recording? Would HT be better served by the more revealing speakers and music by the more euphonic?
 

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If the question is directed at me, I want to hear EXACTLY what the recording engineer put down on the track. As much as possible, I want to have speakers that are as dynamic and transparent as possible. If the performer coughs on a track, I wanna hear it. For me, I'm looking for the illusion of feeling like I'm actually there. So if someone coughs while recording a track, I'd like to hear it.

If that means a poorly produced record shows it's flaws, then so be it.

Now, I can totally understand if someone doesn't want that kind of clarity, neutralness, etc. That's why there are many different brands of speakers out there.

As a side note, I've also heard some sound engineers purposely alter a track so it will sound better on a lesser system. Pure hearsay, but I have heard it a couple of times.

Anyway, that's me..

JCD
 

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Discussion Starter #13
My question is directed to everybody. Everyone is welcome to chime in. Maybe I won't go so far as to post a poll.

Thanks for your response JCD. I think I feel the same way, but I'll have to listen for myself and let you know my final answer.

I've also heard some sound engineers purposely alter a track so it will sound better on a lesser system. Pure hearsay, but I have heard it a couple of times.
:sarcastic: If you're not being sarcastic (I'm slow) or to inform the uninformed, then the extreme example is TV. High pass filters and dynamic compression/volume leveling galore. Sometimes to the point of distraction. All to try to make it listenable on TV speakers.

Dynamic compression is very often overdone to make stuff listenable on cheap CD players in noisy cars. An "audiophile" recording is very hard to listen to in that circumstance.
 

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Ayreonaut said:
:sarcastic: If you're not being sarcastic (I'm slow) or to inform the uninformed, then the extreme example is TV. High pass filters and dynamic compression/volume leveling galore. Sometimes to the point of distraction. All to try to make it listenable on TV speakers.

Dynamic compression is very often overdone to make stuff listenable on cheap CD players in noisy cars. An "audiophile" recording is very hard to listen to in that circumstance.

Nope, not sarcastic -- and when I heard this, it was directed at regular CD recordings, not just TV which is almost always going to have poor fidelity. And your point about TV sound signals makes a certain level of sense.

Again, I can't confirm or deny these allegations, just reporting what I've heard around the proverbial watercooler.

JCD
 

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I am keen on hearing everything that is on an album though admittedly sometimes it is not desirable. If an album is put together well then the experience can be sublime but hearing a song that you like that then does not sound as good can be disappointing, even if you are hearing exactly what has been put down. My local hifi magazine had an article on cds that they use when testing and reviewing speakers, one of which was Johnny Cash - The man comes around. I have the album and have listened to it a lot, both with my previous speakers and my monitors. The track Hurt is a favourite of mine and sounded really great with my old speakers. Listening with the monitors that are very accurate there seems to be a lot of distortion towards the end of the song. I almost thought that somewhere something was not right. Read their article and the reviewer specifically mentioned the track and said that accurate speakers will reveal a lot of distortion. Relief to know that nothing was wrong, but a bit disappointing that a great song could have sounded better. All said and done, I still want to hear everything as it was put down, mistakes and all!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I've been doing my research (surfing) into the possibility of using studio monitors in my HT setup. There aren't many choices if I need a horizontal center channel speaker, and I do.

The best option looks like Mackie who makes the HR626 and HR 624. These are both bi-amped active monitors with 6.7 inch woofers and 1.0 inch Aluminum/Impregnated Cloth tweeters. They street for about $650 ea and $450 ea respectively. I think I can swing that.



The only other option in the sub $1000 studio monitor route with a horizontal center is the Tannoy Reveal 66D and 6D. These take a digital signal and have onboard DACs. They go for a bit more at streets of $700 and $550.



The Mackies seem to have the better rep and I'll definately have to get down to guitar center one of these days and hav a listen. It will be interesting to pit them against the more "hi-fi" offerings from good companies like B&W and Paradigm.

I'll keep you posted.
 

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I can't wait to hear what you think about them.

Regarding the center channel, why not just use a regular speaker mounted vertically? They're relatively small, so I don't think they'd look too funny. Also, if you put the speaker on MoPads, you'll get great isolation and the ability to set them up at an angle (so they point at you).

Also, you can find the 824's for $630 with free shipping here. If you're willing to spend $650/speaker, I think the 824's are supposed to be a "worth it" upgrade.

As a side note, beware of going down to the Guitar Center -- the last time I went to one and took a look at the speakers that were set up, every dust cap was poked in, one of the speaker cones was punctured.. and I have no idea what they did to the tweeters.

JCD
 

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Discussion Starter #18
It would be nice to use three identical monitors for the fronts. Not only would they be perfectly matched, but it opens up a lot of other options. But in my living room, I can't see it work.

My TV is in an armoire. Its a big WAF thing. She wants to close it up when not in use. I know, its a no-no to put my center channel in an armoire. I just have to make it work.

When I first set up I noticed an ugly resonance coming form the armoire. The Polk center I have now is rear ported and it was a problem. I tried the sock in the port and wasn't satisfied with the result. So I found this stuff.



Technifoam Polyurethane Acoustic Foam Panels - 4" Pyramid.

I cut it to fill the whole space behind the center over the TV and put in two layers of the stuff. Worked like a charm. Resonance gone.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, when I went to the only local acousitcs place to pick up the foam and they said that they had never had a home audio enthusiast come in to buy acoustical foam before. Go figure.

Long story short, until I build a HT room years from now, I need a horizontal CC to go on top of the TV. I will look into the angled MoPads. I'd never heard of them.

By the way, I've read that the HR824s have a better bass response, but many actually prefer the mids and highs of the HR624. Since I'll be using them in a sub/sat configuration with an 80 Hz crossover, I think the smaller ones will be fine. But I'll have a listen to both anyway.
 

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With speakers you generally get what you pay for. however if you bought a driver worth $1000
it might only be 3 times better that a $100 driver even though it is 10 times the price. that said one of the things I like to do when buying a new speaker is to have a listen before I buy it.
Recently had a chance to listen to some speakers worth $1000 for each driver, sounded awesome. Just be aware if you are comparing speakers by ear, the room they are been used in can make a huge difference to the sound so what sounds good in one room could sound terrible in another.
 

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I would not neccessarily be afraid of a rear ported speaker. There are compromises when putting any speakers against a wall or in a bookshelf that have nothing to do with the port. I think especially if you cross the speakers over at 80hz there is not much going on with a typical port anyway. I am not saying it has no effect, but I wouldn't rule out a speaker if it was my sonic first choice with rear ports to one that I didn't like as much that has front ports. I have my L/R speakers in bookshelves and they are rear ported. I like them much better than the sealed speakers which should have done better from a technical standpoint in the bookshelves. Just something to think about.

Greg
 
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