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Looking for a good 7.1 surround speaker system for gaming

I'm looking for a good 7.1 surround speaker system, primarily for gaming. My budget is $700.00, though it can extend to $1000.00 if the system is a good deal. Any recommendations?
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  1. Couple of questions, is this for the PC gaming where space is an issue, or regular TV/Theater/gaming setup? And if it's for theater, do you have an AVR already or will that have to be included in the budget as well?
  2. It'll be primarily for gaming. My space is somewhat limited. The desk that it wll be set up upon looks like this:

    _____
    |..._...|
    |..|.|..|
    |_|.|_|
    ....^
    Chair goes into here facing 3 monitors

    Dots represent empty space, as the typing box derps out with spaces.
    Each line represents about a metre and a half.
  3. Hmm...you'd think by now I'd learn to ask for pictures too, ah well. Would it be possible to get a couple of pictures of the space you're working with?

    I'll start looking for some options in your budget with the assumption I need to go kind of small.
    And a couple more questions, would you be ok with 5.1 instead of 7.1? And would you be against building over time and have a bigger budget?
  4. I can't provide pictures of the actual workspace, as I've lost the cable connecting the camera to the PC (it's the kind of cable that seems to be exclusive to the brand, upon which I'll have to wait like 5 weeks for it to ship over from China).

    http://www.todaysofficefurniture.co.uk/Q%20U%20Shape%20Boardroom%20tables.jpg

    Instead I've sifted through the internet to find similar looking tables. It should be somewhat similar to this one, just resize it appropriately inside your head.

    As for the other questions, I'm fine with 5.1 as long as it is upgradeable to 7.1 later. Assuming that this will end up being a build-over-time plan that spans approximately 2 months, my eventual budget will be around $2500.00 total.
  5. $2500 is definitely a respectable budget for PC gaming and you'll have many options to go with. I'll try to present several different options stressing different priorities, but I'm going to skip the PC speakers. Even if you decide to go with a smaller budget you'll still be able to get far better sound with an AVR and regular speakers.

    I assume that your monitors will be at the bottom of the "U" and that you'll be setting the speakers on the desk itself? Is there a certain size limit to the speakers?
  6. Indeed, the monitors are at the bottom of the U and the speakers will be on the desk. Excluding the subwoofer, the face of a single speaker preferably shouldn't exceed the size of a pizza box.
  7. Best answer
    Ok, here's a few things to get going. Keep in mind that some of the items listed will be regular price. If you are willing to wait for sales or do some leg work by looking at difference dealers, you can get them cheaper, sometimes substantially less. If I happen to remember the sale prices I'll let you know what you can expect. For the speakers, I haven't listened to all of them so I'm going off of other people's recommendations however, those listed are recommended consistently and in high regard for the price point they are in.

    AVR/amp:
    Denon 1913 or 2113: $450 These are last years models and are being clearanced out. You can try looking around and seeing if you can get a better price. Best Buys might be a good play to check. You might be able to find them in the $300-400 range and if you don't mind open box even less than that.

    Marantz NR1603: $500 Also last years model and the Denon info applies here too.

    Pioneer VSX-1022-k: $450 Again last years model ditto above. But I've seen some sales that are as low as ~$250 for a new unit in box.

    Emotiva UPA-700: $500

    Just so you know, going from 5.1 to 7.1 is a bit of an increase in price. For 5.1 AVR/amp your looking at $100-300 less. But I understand the want of 7.1 for gaming :D

    First the Emotiva, that's just a straight up 7x80wpc amp and nothing else. With this you'll have you PC do the decoding and then connect via RCA to the amp. It's solid and no fuss, just plug and play. One downside here is if your outputs are noisy or not. With the AVR's you'll be using a digital connection and won't have to worry about that. If you have clean output, this might be the best choice depending on the speakers you choose, less stuff to break down, uses higher quality parts, and will use less power which means less heat too if that's a concern.

    The AVR's: You'll send multi channel PCM/DD/DTS via digital connection. Another downside to the amp is that you have no crossover control. If your PC isn't capable of handling this then an AVR most likely will be a better choice. One thing though, these AVR will need to be connection to a TV/monitor for the initial setup.

    The Denon's and Pioneers are roughly that same, nothing to stand them out from one or the other as far as audio goes. I listed the Marantz to give you a slim form factor option. As far as audio goes, the major difference is that it's only 50wpc vs the 80-85wpc from the others. Since the speakers are going to be right up with you (vs a home theater), this won't matter any. At one watt your speakers will be playing at least 85dB at your seat.

    Now for speakers. Lots of stuff, far more than I can list but here's a few options.
    Low priced category-
    Set 1:
    Pioneer SP-BS22-LR x3 $390
    Pioneer SP-C22 $96
    Total $486
    This is a good set. It's cheap but could easy retail at a higher amount and still be worth it. You can find these many places on the net and also at retailers too, best buy has them. These go on sale regularly and can be anywhere from $60-$100 dollars off for a complete set.

    Set 2:
    NHT SuperZero 2.0 b-stock x7 $385
    The 2.0's are being clearanced out, but the a-stock just isn't low enough at this point to justify getting. They did go on sale at $60/piece which was a good deal but that ended. The b-stock is $55, if the speaker are simply not up to par cosmetically and you don't care, it's a great deal. If you are going to seriously consider this, give NHT a call and find out if it's just that. They may even give you a better deal for a 7 piece set. These are the second smallest bookselves I'll be listing.

    Higher than low budget category-
    Set 3:
    Ascend Acoustics CBM-170SE x7 $888 + $116 shipping $1004 total
    The price reflects a package deal, normally a pair costs $340. Ascend is a internet direct company so you would get them directly from them.
    http://www.ascendacoustics.com/

    Set 4:
    Arx A1b x3 $900
    Arx A2rx-c $230
    Total $1130
    With this set, if you call them up you most likely will get a discount.
    http://www.theaudioinsider.com/manufacturers.php?mPath=13

    Set 5:
    Cambridge Audio S30 x4 $880
    On Amazon there are sold as pairs, so this is for 8 units. If you can get this through a local dealer you will probably get a discount maybe as high as 15% off. These are the smallest bookselves in the list.

    Way up there category-
    With the space constraints I only have one off the top of my head.
    Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 with NrT upgrade for L/R, the Sierra-1 center with NrT upgrade for the center, and then 2 pairs of the CBM-170SE's for the surrounds.
    Price wise I'm not sure what this would all be since I don't quite know how the tweeter upgrade would factor in. It's probably going to be around $2100 +shipping which is already above your budget and doesn't include a sub.

    However without the tweeter upgrade it's $1700 with $120 shipping which puts it back into your budget with a little room leftover for a budget sub. People who've heard these are very impressed with the Sierra-1's. But this is almost certainly overkill for your purposes as this makes for a rather good home theater setup.

    Subs-
    Too many to go over again, so I'll list just a few. Since with all but the Sierra's you'll be crossing over around 70-80hz and placement will most likely be an issue, I'm going to stay away from the boomy one note wonders out there which means starting at $200. Keep in mind that sub placement is going to affect it's performance alot.

    Under the desk subs. These are all subs with 12" drivers so they are big.-
    BIC F12 $200 Decent budget sub, does have it's preferred range to play in but isn't too bad. It sometimes goes on sale for a little bit less. Reaches to around 25hz and it's size is 21" x 19" x 22"
    NXG NX-BAS-500 $250 A good budget sub with a flatter frequency response than the BIC and a bit more accurate. Though it lists 18hz it's more like 27hz when it rolls off. It's size is 17.8" x 14.8" x 18.2"
    SVS SB-1000 $500 Shake your desk off the floor, good accuracy and frequency response and reaches to 22hz. This is far better than the other two and it's a surprisingly compact sub too, only 13" cubed.

    Smaller on desk. These use 6.5" drivers with 2 passive 6.5" radiators-
    Mirage MM-6 $500
    Cambridge Audio Minx X200 $400
    These don't have the reach that is big ones do, however the MM-6 is 8" cubed and the X200 is 8.3" x 8.6" x 8.7". Easily placed on the desk if that was your plan. The Mirages are hard to find but can be found on amazon from time to time. The CA can be found on Amazon or local dealers and if you happen to have a local dealer you might be able to get it as low at $350. I actually use the X200 for a 5.1 theater setup. It does an excellent job for it's size. I do notice the lack of low end extension, but due to space restrictions it was a fair trade to have the small size. They both have roll off around 40-42hz.

    How you mix and match is up to your preferences. If you want to do the budget side, if you can get the NHT's for $50 a piece and catch the BIC on sale you're looking at $530 plus the AVR/amp so anywhere from $800 to $1000. Despite being a budget setup, it'll still stomp the hell out of any PC sat/sub combo setup from say Logitech or such like. And again, the Pioneers are good speakers too that also have good sales somewhat regularly which puts it about the same price. If you want serious bass, get the SVS instead of the BIC.

    Sets 3-5 are definitely worth the extra money in the home theater environment. You probably won't get as much mileage for a PC gaming setup, but it will still be noticeable. This is starting to be overkill and it's a big jump in price. There are other speakers inbetween the two price ranges but they tend to be larger bookselves and I was trying to keep the size somewhat respectable :) The S30's if you can get a good deal on them would be a good middle ground between the budgets and the Arx/Ascends.

    One last choice to bring up. You do have the option of using satellite speakers which are very good, they are the Cambridge Audio Minx either Min11 or 21's. These are some of the best sounding sats out there. The 21's are just larger than a can of coke with dual drivers and the 11's are half the with one driver. The problem using these (and other sats) is that the roll off is high, ~120hz in the Minx's case. This means you have a frequency range (~80hz -120hz) that's still rather directional and needs to be handled by the sub. If your sub is placed under the desk, it will affect the sound quality somewhat in that specific range and it could affect your sense of direction when gaming, this is a problem with any sat/sub combo.

    I'll say this however, I actually use a combination of 21's and 11's for my TV in 5.1 and when I game, sense of direction never seems to be a problem because there's always enough sound in the higher frequencies being played in the correct speaker that you can judge placement. The quality issue shouldn't be too bad and may not even be that noticeable. If the sub is placed higher than the desk then it pretty much goes away.

    The 21's are $190 a piece and the 11's are $90 on Amazon, if you go through a dealer you could get it as low as $150 and $70 a piece. If you really want to go small, these are the speakers to have. Just make sure the sub you get can play up to at least 150hz. If you do decide on the Minx, there is a noticeable difference between the 21 and 11, it's well worth the extra amount to get the 21's at least for the front 3.

    Hope this helps out, happy to answer question on this or other kit that you've come across if I can.
  8. The CMB-170SE's seem like the set for me, but unfortunately hindsight. I have a triple monitor setup (forgot to mention this previously) and if I take 7, the centre speaker's gonna block out the centre monitor. 3 pairs of 2 is fine, but that leaves me in need of a centre. Got anything you can recommend for that?
  9. Usually what I see when people use bookselves for PC speakers is that either they mount them to a stand or the wall behind and just above the monitors or they have a shelf they can set it on. If you can, do this instead because if you are looking for something to sit in front you are going to be left with something like a satellite and that will create a large disjoint in your front wall of sound which will be very noticeable.

    Would you be able to do one of those things?
  10. Ah, that would solve everything. I'll just mount a ledge above my monitors.
  11. Heh, sounds good.

    The 170's are very good speakers for their price point. Their bigger brother (the 340's) are recommended a lot for the main soundstage of a home theater with the 170's are surround duty. For almost nearfield listening such as pc gaming, the 170's will do just fine.
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