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High-quality sound upgrades

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January 19, 2006 2:53:02 AM

Hey everyone,

Well, just bought and built a new PC (listed below) with much credit to THG forum input [thanks everyone!]. Basically, i got the Logitech X-530 5.1 Speaker setup with onboard sound (Realtek AC'97). Now, i'm kinda hoping to get some high-quality sound coming out. With the onboard, i can't control rear speakers, and when i "test" the speakers, it seems as though the wiring is messed up, but i have everything plugged in correct.
(during test: Front Left and Front Right work fine, but Rear Left- sound comes from center, Rear Right-bump sound, Center=Rear Left sound, Sub=Rear Right sound). Should i just get new software,speakers, sound card?

Basically, i'm just wondering what you think in terms of what to get. I want something i can hook up to both my TV and PC in my room (have a surround system preferrably). Lemme know what i can get for price ranges, like for HomeTheatre, what i could spend to get some good equipment,etc... What should i get in terms of:
- Speakers
- Sound card
- Software

I record music, play High-end games (BF2,HL2,COD2,FarCry,more to come), DVD's, listen to music a lot.

If HT is what you think i should setup for:
- Receiver with Dolby Digital/DTS
- Remote
- Sub
- Speakers
- may wait for the DVD player...
- what i need to hook up to PC (cables, equipment,etc)

Lemme know what you guys/gals think. Thanks in advance
January 19, 2006 6:52:05 AM

HT is a whole 'nother league compared to PC speakers in both sound quality (accuracy, performance off-axis, linearity, dispersion, clarity, etc) and price.


(1)SPEAKERS
For speakers, for a 5.1 setup, a popular starting point would be the SVS SBS-01 set that includes the well-received PB-10 subwoofer, for $999.

http://www.svsound.com/products-sys-sbs.cfm

You can see from the measurements and the components used, this is a speaker setup that is going be superior to most sets in this price range...at the cost of cosmetics.

Now not everyone has the ear for it, but if you want to go into real audiophile territory, in terms of tonal accuracy, you can get five Ascend CBM-170SEs for around $900, plus say a Hsu STF-2 (roughly equivalent to the PB-10) for around $399. Total price is around $1,300. The Ascends are +/- 1.5db from 60-20Khz, and the sub will bring that linearity to +/-3db 25-20KHz. It's almost impossible for me to convey just how *accurate* and *linear* this system is.

Common computer multimedia speakers with single-3 inch drivers commonly measure +/-7.5db 120-13KHz, for reference. The lack of a tweeter means highs fall off quickly, and multimedia subs, if you have experience with them, do not truly integrate, but *overpower* satellites and accuracy below 120hz drops off significantly.

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/

These are two of the most exciting speaker products that have been recently released, and being internet direct brands the price they offer for this performance level you would have trouble, or actually, impossibility to find in retail brands, from SEAs tweeters, modified Audax composite aerogel/polygel woofers, Linkwitz-Riley crossovers, etc. You won't be dissapointed. To say the least, these loudspeakers are a head above the competition, and we are talking about highly-valued names like B&W, Energy, PSB, Paradigm, Monitor Audio, etc. Ascend and SVS provide everything you need to know about the performance of their loudspeakers, including graphs on frequency response, off-axis, impedence, and spectral decay.

If this is above your budget, the most common advice is to build up, and start with a stereo pair and a receiver and set the foundation for a speaker setup that can last you for 20+ years. On the flip side, if you have no patience for this sort of thing and like to go through "pre-built home-theater-in-a-box" speaker sets like one video game console after the next, every couple of years...well that's your choice too. In that case any number of satellite/speaker combinations for around $300-500 might satisfy your needs, although acoustically, to the high value SVS or Ascend setups, would be like comparing a 486 to a Pentium III. Economically, I would like to point out going through periodic "upgrades" every few years ends up costing a lot more than building up your dream setup over time. But some people really have no patience for even a slight challenege, and so for them their value judgements are a bit different, as they are willing to accept less performance and throw a few middling dollars every few years to "slightly improve" their audio problem.

I commonly see guys in forums in Anandtech who have gone through something like this the last 8 years: bought Altec Lansing ATP3, gave to dad, two years later, bought Logitech Z-640s, threw that in the garage, two years later bought Logitech Z-680s, gave that to a cousin, three years later, bought Logitech Z-5500s, sold them, then bought Creative S750...the process goes on forever. This is what I am talking about...it's like an exercise in futility. I am constantly "told" by people like this that I am a golden-eared audiophile who throws my money at things they can't even perceive, that what they have is more than enough.

My question to them--1) why do you keep upgrading if you are always so satisfied? and 2) why do you think I throw my money away when you've clearly spent more money on audio the last ten years than I have, actually more like 3 times as much?--I've spent $600, you've spent over $1,500... and 3) Doesn't your behavior seem more like you aren't utilizing your money the best and not I?...but these questions usually fall on deaf ears and they accuse me of being an "audiophile" like I have the plague or something. Such is life : P

(2) Receiver

The popular receiver these days is the digitally amplified Panasonic SA-XR55. You can find out all you want about it here:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=530504
(If you don't have the patience, basically it's a highly valued receiver, and has all the regular shabangs including DD5.1/DTS/Prologic 2x, etc)

Suffice to say at $230 it provides more power than most $800 ones with lower distortion figures, more linearity, and lower noise floor. To take advantage of this you will need to connect digitally to your receiver, as it is a digital WPM receiver...on to the sound card.


(2) Sound card

For gaming needs, I would suggest the Bluegears X-mystique or Turtle Beach Montenegro. These both do real-time Dolby Digital encoding like the old nforce 2 motherboards used to do, and this allows you to connect digitally to your receiver and have all the surround gaming goodness as well. This is a good thing...your music will be significantly more noise-free through digital pass-through and have the receiver do the primary processing than analog, where your sound card gets into the mix and adds noise.

Reading your other thread, I see you really want to get into the recording thing. I'm not experienced with this, and the Dolby Digital Live (DDL) cards I offered might not be of much help there. There is some compromise to be had with these consumer electronics. Perhaps an analog card with a breakout box might work for you better, all things given.

(4) Software

Sorry, I don't do much recording. Can't help you much there.

(5) Sub
Hsu or SVS are considered market leaders. Stick with them, unless you can't fit them into your budget. Then I would suggest looking at older Mirage subwoofers, like the S12, or even a cheap $150 one like the Dayton Sub-120 at partsexpress.com (it won't give you the heartpounding subsonic 20hz bass...but that's for movies mostly, music doesn't go that low in general, and games certainly don't either).

(6) DVD Player

Panasonic S77/97 or Oppo OPDV971H...IF you have a large screen TV, as the poor image quality of many DVD players become apparent on larger screens (40" and above). Things like color saturation, chroma issues, are fixed (or at least improved) with the faroujda based chipsets on both players. Roughly $200-300 for each player. If you run a 27" TV, then any old cheap DVD player in the $60-100 would work for you, since the TV would hide most image quality problems.

(7) Hookups

A toslink or coaxial digital cable. That's it, if you follow the easy route I gave you. If you need something else (like something of significantly lower budget), we may start running into more cables, more clutter, etc.

If you go analog card with breakout box, you *can* use the digital out for music and 3 analog cables for gaming (to the receiver). If the extra digital cable is a hassle to you for music, then use the regular analog cable, and I suppose Creative's resampling has improved somewhat so that distortion with music playback is less of an issue.

Hope this helps :) 
January 19, 2006 10:57:26 AM

If the sounds are not coming out of the correct speaker then you have something set up wrong.
I would think that you have the plugs for the center/sub and rear speakers switched.
I would also check the speaker settings in windows and with any program that came with the motherboard to control sound.
I have those same speakers and use onboard also and I get full surround sound.
Related resources
January 19, 2006 12:09:09 PM

I would recommend a decent Sound Blaster or Turtle Beach sound card.

Onboard audio is VERY bad :-(

Even an old SB Live Value 5.1 card is way better than onboard sound and can be had for $10-$40 online (ebay, newegg, etc).

You do not have to spend a fortune to have better sound :D 

The Audigy isn't bad either.

If you want top of the line speakers the Klipsch speakers are awesome although they cost a fortune ($399 retail $299 @newegg for the 5.1s). Logitech and Creative Labs speakers are decent too.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...


For software I would say give Fedora Core 4, ubuntu or Knoppix a try :D  They all have great audio software like audacity, mplayer, xmms, xine and a TON of other packages.

http://mirrors.kernel.org/fedora/core/4/i386/iso/FC4-i3...
http://mirrors.kernel.org/fedora/core/4/x86_64/iso/FC4-...
http://www.kernel.org/pub/dist/knoppix/KNOPPIX_V4.0.2CD...
http://ubuntu.com/download

For windoze... I dunno... what are you trying to do?
January 19, 2006 11:47:19 PM

Quote:
(2) Receiver

Found out my dad's got a Kenwood VR-407... pretty nice

Quote:
(2) Sound card

For gaming needs, I would suggest the Bluegears X-mystique or Turtle Beach Montenegro. These both do real-time Dolby Digital encoding like the old nforce 2 motherboards used to do, and this allows you to connect digitally to your receiver and have all the surround gaming goodness as well. This is a good thing...your music will be significantly more noise-free through digital pass-through and have the receiver do the primary processing than analog, where your sound card gets into the mix and adds noise.


Bluegears X-Mystique:
http://www.bluegears.com/xmystique.html
http://www.bluegears.com/wheretobuy.html
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductListByBrand.jsp?Br...

Turtle Beach:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
http://www.turtlebeach.com/site/products/soundcards/mtg...

Which is better in terms of price/performance/features ratio? What will suit my needs best?

Quote:
Reading your other thread, I see you really want to get into the recording thing. I'm not experienced with this, and the Dolby Digital Live (DDL) cards I offered might not be of much help there. There is some compromise to be had with these consumer electronics. Perhaps an analog card with a breakout box might work for you better, all things given.


I already have recording Firewire Interface along with software (PreSonus Firebox/ Cubase LE)
http://www.presonus.com/firebox.html

Quote:
(4) Software

Sorry, I don't do much recording. Can't help you much there.


I was actually referring to audio features/setup/configuration...But don't those sound cards you recommended come with great software? (just want versatility and great performance with audio sound/quality/features)

Quote:
(5) Sub
Hsu or SVS are considered market leaders. Stick with them, unless you can't fit them into your budget. Then I would suggest looking at older Mirage subwoofers, like the S12, or even a cheap $150 one like the Dayton Sub-120 at partsexpress.com (it won't give you the heartpounding subsonic 20hz bass...but that's for movies mostly, music doesn't go that low in general, and games certainly don't either).


Basically looking to spend about $400-$700 tops total (speakers/sub/soundcard MAYBE a DVD player)

Quote:
(6) DVD Player


debatable, since my budget is like $700 tops, what's a good midrange one?

Quote:
(7) Hookups
If you need something else (like something of significantly lower budget), we may start running into more cables, more clutter, etc.


Yah, looking to not have such expensive setup... i have some Monster cables from my dad's old setup, what would i need to hook up everything?

Quote:
Hope this helps :) 

Definately lead me in the right direction. I appreciate the input! 8)

Basically, i just want to get:
- 5.1 Surround Sound setup
- Soundcard
- DVD player possibly
- great sound
- great features

All for $450-$650 or $700, haven't decided the tops yet... Possibly some powered speakers (so i can hear what i record through my firewire interface...)

Lemme know, thanks for all the help; hopefully i can make this a dream surround setup for a pretty affordable price... thanks, lemme know ASAP if you can please. -take care

Some DVD players i've found, lemme know what you think, what's better:
-Panasonic DVD-S77

features:
- HD and regular TV ready
- coax/opt
- DVI and HDMI? (or is it one or the other?)
- can hold at least 1 CD, 4 tops
- future oriented
- great price-performance ratio
- can offer great performance with equipment i get
January 20, 2006 12:12:41 AM

If you are on a lower budget, I would suggest a pair of bookshelves and you can use your X-530s as surrounds for games.

For example, get an RCA to stereo mini converter and plug that into the receiver. A pair of Ascend CBM-170SE ($350) or SVS SB-01s ($230). You probably ought to save money for a good sub, because it's good subs are far more expensive than good speakers. But a good backup "movie" sub (if the X-530s aren't enough) would be the Dayton Sub-120 or Sub-100 at partspress.com, ($125 and $150 respectively).

Between the X-mystique and the Turtle Beach? I'm not really sure, although I know the X-mystique is the newer card. You should do a websearch but I'm pretty sure they are very similar.

DVD player, like I said, unless you need faroujda-chroma color correction, any player is satisfactory, just make sure it plays a lot of formats like DVD-A and DIVX. Just to throw out a name, an example would be the Phillips DVP642 which sells for $60 at your local Wallmart.

So all of this is around $500 to $700 depending on how you choose your components. This fits into your budget and you'll be able to replace your surround channels as you get more money. That would be my suggestion.
January 20, 2006 1:25:11 AM

Well we had been talking all along about connecting digitally, so a DDL-equipped card was going to be important. Certainly the second option of going all-analog, the X-Fi should be a sufficient card as well. It does resample music in analog mode unfortunately which leads to intermodulation distortion, which adds a slight harshness to high frequency sounds. Bet you are happy I recommended some neutral speakers eh? :lol:  Some brighter speakers might become unbearable with more harshness heh.

If you can get a good price on an X-Fi, that should work well for you as well. Creative spent a good deal of their budget on resampling horsepower so music output should be a fair less harsh than the older Audigy 2 line.
January 20, 2006 1:37:33 AM

oh, so i should prob stick with Digital then?
what's difference between digital and analog?
what would suit my needs?

Quote:
If the sounds are not coming out of the correct speaker then you have something set up wrong.
I would think that you have the plugs for the center/sub and rear speakers switched.
I would also check the speaker settings in windows and with any program that came with the motherboard to control sound.
I have those same speakers and use onboard also and I get full surround sound.


i have the connections in the right spots (they are color labeled and pretty self-explanatory). I also plugged the orange,green, and black to Audio connectors on mobo...

The AUDIO headers are connected via 9-pin...don't see a problem there

what would the problem be?...everythings plugged into the right place from the sub and the Audio connectors....it should be right, maybe it's just the test is just messed up, the speakers run fine...
January 20, 2006 3:10:11 AM

In your situation since you already have a receiver, you don't need to get the digital Panasonic, so therefore you don't need a dolby digital live card, and since you are probably leaning toward an X-Fi right now, you should stick to analog.

If you go digital you will not get surround sound in games, so getting an X-Fi would be an exercise in futility. The difference between analog and digital is that digital bypasses the signal processing to the receiver/decoder. Analog has the work done by the soundcard.

Analog is usually 3 stereo mini plugs, and my suggestion is for you to use the stereo front output and connect that to the receiver using an RCA to stereo mini cable at Radioshack for $7. This way your mains will be the bookshelves. You can connect the rear and surround analog outs to your X-530 as surrounds for games.

Digital would be 1 cable, toslink or coaxial. Since its only a single signal path, you need a way to compress several surround channels into one, such as what DDL does, in order to achieve surround sound in games. Otherwise, only pre-encoded stuff like DVDs would come out in full surround. But since you are going analog it won't be a problem, unless your budget suddenly shoots up a couple hundred $ :D 
January 20, 2006 3:50:29 AM

kinda confusing, but OK:

i was hoping to hook up some HT speakers to both my PC and my TV...you said that they're a much bettern investment in the long run

1.) I've seen some friends' DVD players that come with surround sound, could i get one of those and hook that up to both my TV and PC also? or would it be better to get bookshelves or somethin...

2.) could i just get a 6-piece surround set?

i've been looking at some with good reviews:
-Polk Audio RM6005 with PSW202 subwoofer=$500
-Cambridge Soundworks Movieworks 106=$400

what would you recommend (not just out of these 2, hoping to get from Crutchfield, BestBuy, CiruitCity, Maganolia Hi-Fi, or Fry's...

3.) really no point in using a receiver if im going with both soundcard/X-530's + bookshelves, i kinda want one or the other (mainly HT setup)

Usage:
- Plugin surround sound into both PC and TV
- Play PC games, and also play console games
- Watch DVD's on both
- experience "true" quality at an affordable price

lemme know. thanks again
January 20, 2006 4:32:10 AM

I gave you recommendations on bookshelves, and "building up" because it saves you money in the long run and also provides more long term happiness, and because you said "you listen to music alot" so I figured quality was your primary concern.

I have a 2.1 setup and I'm more than happy for games and movies. I pull out some computer speakers for rears and surrounds when I watch DVDs, and for gaming I use decent Sennheiser headphones, and they are more than enough for me in competitive FPS gaming. I'm looking to complete my 5.1 setup over time as money comes in and I try to get deals on preowned Ascend speakers. That's the way I'm handling my audio stuff. If it works for you, I'm happy for you, if not, then the best of luck to you.

Could you just get a home theater-in-a-box multi-piece setup? Sure you can, am I holding you back? I certainly don't believe they are a good value, but like buying a Dell, if you want to save time, don't care about quality and just want something with surround channels, then do whatever is best for you. I've already said all that I pretty much can, otherwise I'm just repeating myself from now on.

The quality for those pre-built systems are all very close, all with overworked tiny drivers, chuffing subs, and some low-grade electronics, so I won't try to "recommend" anything, since your guess is as good as mine.

"3.) really no point in using a receiver if im going with both soundcard/X-530's + bookshelves, i kinda want one or the other (mainly HT setup)"

I'm confused by this statement. You mean to say you are going to get rid of your X-530s? Otherwise, for either a gaming setup, you'd need a soundcard, and you already have the receiver...what's there to have or the other?

"Usage:
- Plugin surround sound into both PC and TV
- Play PC games, and also play console games
- Watch DVD's on both
- experience "true" quality at an affordable price"

*You are going to need a soundcard AND a receiver if you want PC and TV connectivity.
*You don't have that kind of connectivity options on a X-530 alone.
*You aren't going experience quality better than computer speakers if you are going to settle for a home-theater-in-a-box
*I think the option's I've outlined are the cheapest to reach your goals. It seems like you have problems with it. Getting an HtiB will fix your connectivity issues. It won't give you quality. As long as you understand this, various HTIB satellite/subwoofer/DVD-player combos are available for the $500 mark.
January 20, 2006 5:25:46 AM

Quote:
I gave you recommendations on bookshelves, and "building up" because it saves you money in the long run and also provides more long term happiness, and because you said "you listen to music alot" so I figured quality was your primary concern.


Yup, quality is my main concern

Quote:
I have a 2.1 setup and I'm more than happy for games and movies. I pull out some computer speakers for rears and surrounds when I watch DVDs, and for gaming I use decent Sennheiser headphones, and they are more than enough for me in competitive FPS gaming. I'm looking to complete my 5.1 setup over time as money comes in and I try to get deals on preowned Ascend speakers. That's the way I'm handling my audio stuff. If it works for you, I'm happy for you, if not, then the best of luck to you.


oOOOOohhh... I didn't know i could use the X-530's in conjunction with the 2.1 setup. won't it sound crappy though?

Quote:
Could you just get a home theater-in-a-box multi-piece setup? Sure you can, am I holding you back? I certainly don't believe they are a good value, but like buying a Dell, if you want to save time, don't care about quality and just want something with surround channels, then do whatever is best for you. I've already said all that I pretty much can, otherwise I'm just repeating myself from now on.

The quality for those pre-built systems are all very close, all with overworked tiny drivers, chuffing subs, and some low-grade electronics, so I won't try to "recommend" anything, since your guess is as good as mine.


Alrite, things are starting to become clearer now. it does seem that those HTIB are cheap stuff, didn't realise that building from scratch is better... thanks for that.

Quote:
"3.) really no point in using a receiver if im going with both soundcard/X-530's + bookshelves, i kinda want one or the other (mainly HT setup)"

I'm confused by this statement. You mean to say you are going to get rid of your X-530s? Otherwise, for either a gaming setup, you'd need a soundcard, and you already have the receiver...what's there to have or the other?


Didn't realize i could use both X-530's AND the 2.1 setup. that does seem pretty cool and it would save me money... (i just wasn't gonna use the X-530's, but you've given me some insightful input)

Quote:
"Usage:
- Plugin surround sound into both PC and TV
- Play PC games, and also play console games
- Watch DVD's on both
- experience "true" quality at an affordable price"

*You are going to need a soundcard AND a receiver if you want PC and TV connectivity.
*You don't have that kind of connectivity options on a X-530 alone.
*You aren't going experience quality better than computer speakers if you are going to settle for a home-theater-in-a-box
*I think the option's I've outlined are the cheapest to reach your goals. It seems like you have problems with it. Getting an HtiB will fix your connectivity issues. It won't give you quality. As long as you understand this, various HTIB satellite/subwoofer/DVD-player combos are available for the $500 mark.


Yah, i think i'll just stick with my 5.1 plus the 2.1 HT speakers. kinda weird how you can hook up two totally different speakers (HT and PC), i thought you needed either one or the other.
- so i would just use the 2 rear + center + sub from PC & the 2.1 HT?
- how would i set it up?

sorry for all the questions and everything, i appreciate your help and patience. get back to me whenever you got the free time. take care man -later
January 20, 2006 5:31:46 AM

What he is trying to tell you buddy is that if you buy somthing like an HT in a box set up, You WILL not get what your asking for.

Start small (like me) and be happy in the long run; rather then droping loads of wasted money into some shit HTIB and finally realising that it is just compared to what you can get with a few hundred extra dollars. It sounds like that would be the best thing for you to do, and what your asking for.
January 20, 2006 5:39:29 AM

"Yah, i think i'll just stick with my 5.1 plus the 2.1 HT speakers. kinda weird how you can hook up two totally different speakers (HT and PC), i thought you needed either one or the other.
- so i would just use the 2 rear + center + sub from PC & the 2.1 HT?
- how would i set it up?"

Goto Radioshack. Buy an RCA to Stereo mini converter for $7. This goes into the "front L/R" in the 6-channel direct or any stereo input on the receiver. Your bookshelves will play music (stereo) and do the front soundstage for movies and games.

Connect the other two (black and yellow I think?) outputs to the X-530. This can serve as backup rears and surrounds for gaming and movies. Will this sound bad? Yeah, it won't be the greatest. But gaming needs aren't that great, and I know in movies more than 75% of the audio information comes from the center channel alone (when you run just stereo front/left, your receiver downmixes the center channel from DD5.1/DTS mixes into the stereo front left/right mix...so no loss there. We call that "phantom center."). So you'd be taking advantage of your good "mains" most of the time anyway. The rears and surrounds see some surround effects in movies; its not "that" big of a deal, but its nice if you have the money (and eventually will) for a full-fledged HT setup. Music is mostly 2-channel. Your taking full advantage of music with your bookshelves.

Hope this helps.
January 20, 2006 1:34:16 PM

the only thing i can't find are those bookshelves you recommended, kinda want to get at BestBuy,Magnolia Hi-Fi, Crutchfield, or somewhere online that's trustworthy/reliable (kinda want to get it at store rather than wait for it to ship or have problems in process). Where would i be able to get these? (can't seem to find anywhere)

loll, sorry to ask again, but now with this setup, would i go digital or analog for soundcard?...i don't care, just want best sound. sorry for all the confusion, thanks for all the help

-later
January 20, 2006 4:36:39 PM

slim,

Like I've been saying...stick to analog...

You can't find those bookshelves because I said they were internet direct...retail bookshelves aren't very good unless you go to a dealer, and even then you'd be paying more for the same performance. I might grudgingly recommend the Energy C-3 for $250 retail, that's the only thing I might really recommend in your price range that's a retail product. You might find that at Good Guys. Otherwise, most retail speakers are "bright" or "bassy" (as in slight variations of course, nothing approaching the mess computer speakers are in, but you'll perceive these qualities with songs you recognize) but not *accurate* unless you get into much higher price brackets.

However, if you find something to your liking...don't let me hold you back...maybe you'll find your tastes veer toward the brighter or the warmer, who knows. Of course it seems alot to recommend you into brands you've never heard before, which is why you've gone retail to audition. There are some good retail options available if you don't want to go the ID route certainly, but you gotta AUDITION.
January 20, 2006 5:55:07 PM

ROFL... I like the Klipsch Ultras too... But when I purchased them, I quickly learn of its limitations... May not be as bad as Logitech or the others, but its still in the same playing field.
January 20, 2006 6:06:45 PM

Quote:
slim,

Like I've been saying...stick to analog...


ok, just thought i would need to go digital if i ended up getting more speakers in the near future... (it seems like digital sounds better i'm assuming?..)

Quote:
You can't find those bookshelves because I said they were internet direct...retail bookshelves aren't very good unless you go to a dealer, and even then you'd be paying more for the same performance. I might grudgingly recommend the Energy C-3 for $250 retail, that's the only thing I might really recommend in your price range that's a retail product. You might find that at Good Guys. Otherwise, most retail speakers are "bright" or "bassy" (as in slight variations of course, nothing approaching the mess computer speakers are in, but you'll perceive these qualities with songs you recognize) but not *accurate* unless you get into much higher price brackets.


o ok, yah i was just hoping to get something from a store where i can see it and test it up close, rather than buying online and having there be a risk. maybe i'll just go down and look and just do more research

Quote:
However, if you find something to your liking...don't let me hold you back...maybe you'll find your tastes veer toward the brighter or the warmer, who knows. Of course it seems alot to recommend you into brands you've never heard before, which is why you've gone retail to audition. There are some good retail options available if you don't want to go the ID route certainly, but you gotta AUDITION.


in terms of retail, i kinda just want to test em before i buy because like you said its an investment that will last (and will cost $). i've been looking on ConsumerReports because they seem to have credible knowlege and sufficient information to help. i thought going through their opinions would be good as well. they have a wide variety of solutions (bookshelve, floor-standing, 3-piece, 6 piece). i just thought they were good, too. that's how i came to my 1st car was through CR Used Car Buying Guide...What's your take on Consumer Reports?
January 20, 2006 6:24:06 PM

Slim, I know my posts are long, which is probably why you are still confused (I'm guessing you haven't been reading them). The gist is, with digital you need to buy an X-mystique or TB Montenegro if you want GAMING surround sound for dolby digital live, because the digital medium can't pass multiple signals. Dolby Digital Live wraps all those surround gaming channels and passes them through a single digital signal so your receiver can decode it. You say you want surround gaming, well you are going to have to get a DDL-equipped card or an analog card...otherwise you are just confusing me what is it you truly want :lol:  What's the point of having digital just so you can say you have it...and not have surround gaming channels? ^^

If you go analog (say an X-Fi), you don't have that problem, but the noise floor is higher because both your soundcard AND your receiver are interacting with the sound signal. Clear now?

As for retail speakers, generally they look better but aren't as well engineered. However, here are some names to look at:

Bright speakers: This means either the speaker cones have a natural preponderance to more upper midrange frequency energy, or the speakers themselves use metal drivers/tweeters, which "resonate" and cause you to think there is more detail, but it might be slightly fatiguing. The MAJORITY of popular/well-received bookshelves are bright, because people believe its more detailed...

Retail Brands: B&W (DM303), Boston Acoustics (CR67), Klipsch (SB-1, SB-2), Athena (AS-B1, B2)
Online Brands: Epos (ELS-3), Athena (above), Axiom (M-2, M-3, used M-22)

Neutral Speakers: In a word, accurate. Some people who don't listen to many types of music (and listen exclusively to one type) are less likely to prefer neutral speakers, as they are more of a "one-size-fits-all" and don't color the sound toward a certain taste. Most neutral speakers are a bit more expensive...I can't think of any other than Energy...NHT *might* be slightly out of your price range...the Absolute Zero (their smallest bookshelf) is $400...

Retail brands: Energy (C-1, C-3) ...I'm running out of ideas in this price range
Online brands: Ascend Acoustics (CBM-170SE)

Warm Speakers: Upper bass hump. Makes you "think" there is more bass than there is. Some people who would rather not mate their bookshelves with subs might prefer warm speakers.

Retail brands: Paradigm (Atom, Titan) ...I'm running out of ideas here too, warm speakers are usually accurate with a bass boost...most are out of this price range.

Here are some ideas. Also, you might really like something you audition ; )

PS: NEVER FORGET TO ASK FOR A DEAL ON RETAIL SPEAKERS ; )

PS2: Here is a look at various bookshelf speaker measurements:

http://www.soundstageav.com/speakermeasurements.html

You might notice despite some of the competition going into $20-30K territory, the Ascend CBM-170s measure very well :D 

Not to mention the SEs are even MORE linear ^^
January 20, 2006 11:26:06 PM

ok, so Digital doesn't offer surround, weird...

1.) where would i get Ascend CBM-170SE ? How much? (they aren't even on the Ascend website, only the 170...)

2.) So Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty is what i might go with in terms of sound card

sounds good so far, thanks for the help. lemme know when u got the free time. 8) -peace
January 21, 2006 1:47:29 AM

As good as the Ascend CBM-170 speakers may be, they will cost you $350 for a single pair.

I would have to assume the CBM-170SE Signature Edition speakers would sell for well over $350 / pair.

These speakers would also require an external amplifier for an extra $299 if using the cheapest amplifier from the ascend website.

So we're already talking $750 for an amp and 2 speakers and $1400 for a complete system (6.1 + amp).

The Klipsch 5.1 speakers are only $299 and are some of the best speakers I have ever experienced. If I were building a home theater system I would use Klipsch instead of overpriced home theater speakers.

Semper Fi Linux on!
January 21, 2006 5:02:52 AM

thought you just hook up those speakers to the receiver and sound card or somethin?
January 21, 2006 5:55:39 AM

Quote:
As good as the Ascend CBM-170 speakers may be, they will cost you $350 for a single pair.

I would have to assume the CBM-170SE Signature Edition speakers would sell for well over $350 / pair.

These speakers would also require an external amplifier for an extra $299 if using the cheapest amplifier from the ascend website.

So we're already talking $750 for an amp and 2 speakers and $1400 for a complete system (6.1 + amp).

The Klipsch 5.1 speakers are only $299 and are some of the best speakers I have ever experienced. If I were building a home theater system I would use Klipsch instead of overpriced home theater speakers.

Semper Fi Linux on!


I have those speakers and I am looking for better quality... I'm getting tired of the anemic mid-bass and distorting sub... You are right... They are a great bargain though... Cept that mine blew and Amp and I just got another one for it practially free... 5 days after the waranty expired... It happes to a lot of the ultra owners... Its almost a lemon. Just read Klipsch forums. Its littered with people with amp problems.
January 21, 2006 8:17:16 AM

Quote:
As good as the Ascend CBM-170 speakers may be, they will cost you $350 for a single pair.

I would have to assume the CBM-170SE Signature Edition speakers would sell for well over $350 / pair.

These speakers would also require an external amplifier for an extra $299 if using the cheapest amplifier from the ascend website.

So we're already talking $750 for an amp and 2 speakers and $1400 for a complete system (6.1 + amp).

The Klipsch 5.1 speakers are only $299 and are some of the best speakers I have ever experienced. If I were building a home theater system I would use Klipsch instead of overpriced home theater speakers.

Semper Fi Linux on!


Overpriced would indicate a bad value. Have you ever heard any hi-fi speakers, and if so, which, and why did you think they are a bad value?

Besides, my advice was for the gentlemen to audition to see what he likes. I don't believe its responsible advice just to say "buy this" without providing reasoning beyond "others suck" or "buy what I buy, therefore it kicks ass." Yes, the Klipsch is a great deal. But you know, there's more to cars than Honda Civics too. That's a great deal, great gas mileage...some people prefer cars that handle better and have more speed, power, more luxury, etc. When slim auditions, he'll decide for himself if its something he wants; those are his preferences.

While I'd love for him to buy the Ascends, I'd love for him to buy ANY bookshelf speaker, since its a hefty upgrade over multimedia speakers. There are excellent bookshelves like Athena AS-B1s you can pick up for $100/pair. That's hardly ripping his guts out.

It seems like to you,linux_0, you really value a whole 5.1 setup. Slim might value having a great 2-channel system first, while getting the funds to upgrade to a full system. I mean I hear you, since you've already repeated the same post several times in this thread, I think you need to email slim if you really want him to have a full 5.1 setup with identical speakers RIGHT now, and screw music performance. If he really values music, then you are going to have to make a pretty good case not to "open his eyes" and stick to your beloved Klipsch 5.1 Ultra.

As a matter of record, we actually have a Klipsch 5.1 set running as TV speakers right now, and while they are fine for action movies, I don't believe they sound nearly clean enough to compare to even entry level bookshelf speakers. Physics is physics. Smaller driver size, greater distortion at the same SPL, less firm material, greater resonance and detail loss. Klipsch 5.1 Ultra is better than most HTIBs I've come across, but you'd never mistake it for a bookshelf speaker in a blind test. It's a great deal for $300, but then again so is the Fluance AV-HTB+ for $200, so it's not exactly the golden chalice of speaker deals.

Slim, the 170SEs were just recently released. I don't expect availability for a while, probably until mid-February. The regular 170s are still available, and you can see by the measurements they aren't far off from the 170SE models. Essentially, the 170SEs tightened the frequency response by another .5db. It's a more refined version of the 170s, but going from the X-530s I'm sure you'd be more than happy about the huge difference.

However, you did say you wanted to audition retail brands? If you want a 5.1 sooner (at the cost of buying brighter, slightly less accurate bookshelves), Infinity Primus 150s and Athena AS-B1s are available online for $100/pair, and the Athenas can be auditioned at your local Best Buy.

So your choices are

1) Good mains now, build up eventually a system with the same brand over time as money trickles in
2) Get cheaper mains for a full surround setup NOW, but you might eventually get the upgrade bug
3) Get those Klipsch 5.1 Ultras, join the club of "I've never heard bookshelves before, but they can't be that good, so I'm not gonna bother to find out" but possibly suffer some remorse...

Of course, you could always audition at a retail store. That's free (save your time, gas) and if you think bookshelves blow away computer speakers, then you've had an epiphany, if not, then at least you tried and you can be happy with your computer speakers.

I believe in opening your eyes. Or you could just follow linux's advice, just buy the Klipschs without actually basing your decision based on your best interests.

"thought you just hook up those speakers to the receiver and sound card or somethin?"

Huh? Are you asking me? Please don't mind me, but it sounds like you are really young from the syntax you use. :lol:  Speakers are powered by the receiver through speaker wire. The input signal goes from your soundcard.

Any other help I can offer, please ask.
January 21, 2006 4:13:02 PM

Quote:

Overpriced would indicate a bad value. Have you ever heard any hi-fi speakers, and if so, which, and why did you think they are a bad value?

Besides, my advice was for the gentlemen to audition to see what he likes. I don't believe its responsible advice just to say "buy this" without providing reasoning beyond "others suck" or "buy what I buy, therefore it kicks ass." Yes, the Klipsch is a great deal. But you know, there's more to cars than Honda Civics too. That's a great deal, great gas mileage...some people prefer cars that handle better and have more speed, power, more luxury, etc. When slim auditions, he'll decide for himself if its something he wants; those are his preferences.

While I'd love for him to buy the Ascends, I'd love for him to buy ANY bookshelf speaker, since its a hefty upgrade over multimedia speakers. There are excellent bookshelves like Athena AS-B1s you can pick up for $100/pair. That's hardly ripping his guts out.

It seems like to you,linux_0, you really value a whole 5.1 setup. Slim might value having a great 2-channel system first, while getting the funds to upgrade to a full system. I mean I hear you, since you've already repeated the same post several times in this thread, I think you need to email slim if you really want him to have a full 5.1 setup with identical speakers RIGHT now, and screw music performance. If he really values music, then you are going to have to make a pretty good case not to "open his eyes" and stick to your beloved Klipsch 5.1 Ultra.

As a matter of record, we actually have a Klipsch 5.1 set running as TV speakers right now, and while they are fine for action movies, I don't believe they sound nearly clean enough to compare to even entry level bookshelf speakers. Physics is physics. Smaller driver size, greater distortion at the same SPL, less firm material, greater resonance and detail loss. Klipsch 5.1 Ultra is better than most HTIBs I've come across, but you'd never mistake it for a bookshelf speaker in a blind test. It's a great deal for $300, but then again so is the Fluance AV-HTB+ for $200, so it's not exactly the golden chalice of speaker deals.

Slim, the 170SEs were just recently released. I don't expect availability for a while, probably until mid-February. The regular 170s are still available, and you can see by the measurements they aren't far off from the 170SE models. Essentially, the 170SEs tightened the frequency response by another .5db. It's a more refined version of the 170s, but going from the X-530s I'm sure you'd be more than happy about the huge difference.

However, you did say you wanted to audition retail brands? If you want a 5.1 sooner (at the cost of buying brighter, slightly less accurate bookshelves), Infinity Primus 150s and Athena AS-B1s are available online for $100/pair, and the Athenas can be auditioned at your local Best Buy.

So your choices are

1) Good mains now, build up eventually a system with the same brand over time as money trickles in
2) Get cheaper mains for a full surround setup NOW, but you might eventually get the upgrade bug
3) Get those Klipsch 5.1 Ultras, join the club of "I've never heard bookshelves before, but they can't be that good, so I'm not gonna bother to find out" but possibly suffer some remorse...

Of course, you could always audition at a retail store. That's free (save your time, gas) and if you think bookshelves blow away computer speakers, then you've had an epiphany, if not, then at least you tried and you can be happy with your computer speakers.

I believe in opening your eyes. Or you could just follow linux's advice, just buy the Klipschs without actually basing your decision based on your best interests.


Whoa, so you're saying [(1.)] that i have to upgrade the same brand of speakers? or could i use different speakers for center and rears?

Quote:
"thought you just hook up those speakers to the receiver and sound card or somethin?"

Huh? Are you asking me? Please don't mind me, but it sounds like you are really young from the syntax you use. :lol:  Speakers are powered by the receiver through speaker wire. The input signal goes from your soundcard.

Any other help I can offer, please ask.


I was asking in general. As far as syntax goes, i get lazy when it comes to typing. I knew the speakers were powered by receiver, i wonder why he said i needed an amp?...

Yeah, i probably will go down to BB and other stores to see what seems to be the best as of retail HT speakers... When i go down, i'll let u know what they recommend and we'll see if those 170's are truly the best bargain for the price. Thanks for the help. -later
January 21, 2006 5:33:37 PM

Quote:
Whoa, so you're saying [(1.)] that i have to upgrade the same brand of speakers? or could i use different speakers for center and rears?


You dont have too... But if you want matched sound (timbre) you should... It can sound a bit wierd if you have Ascend mains and Infinity (just for example) center and surrounds.
January 21, 2006 8:54:10 PM

Quote:
Whoa, so you're saying [(1.)] that i have to upgrade the same brand of speakers? or could i use different speakers for center and rears?


You dont have too... But if you want matched sound (timbre) you should... It can sound a bit wierd if you have Ascend mains and Infinity (just for example) center and surrounds.

That's my point...in say 5+ years if front/center/left speakers you purchased are of the same manufacturer, and you are satisfied with them, than many would go with a complete setup, out of decor--aka it looks complete--and also as clob said, timbre matching of the tweeters.

Some people don't care about this as much, and will audition to see if there are superior surrounds for the money (or if the manufacturer does not provide the best surrounds). For example, Ascend only makes monopole (single tweeter, one direction speakers). If your HT room is massive, you might want something more like the Axiom QS8 (it is expensive at $500, but does its job well); a quadpole speaker with dual tweeter/woofer all pointing in diametrically opposed directions. This gives a more diffuse effect. I've heard people who've bought various brands of fronts (LCR) and ended up picking a pair of Axiom QS8s for the rears because they liked the effect so much.
January 23, 2006 2:41:20 AM

my room is pretty much the size of a single dorm room (2nd yr. of college, livin' at home until transfer). I basically have 11'x9' of room, plus i got:
6'x5' bed
4'x2' computer desk
27" TV (2'x2' amount of space it takes up with the stand)
guitars and amp...

so, i have no idea how i'm going to setup my room... what's the ideal setup in my case? i want to be able to get the surround effect and still have enough room to walk...

room setup:
_____________________________
|............wwwwwwwwwww............|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ttttt|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ttttt|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ggg|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ggg|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb..........................|
|............................................cccccc|
|............................................cccccc|
|............................................cccccc|
|dddddd................................cccccc|

so basically,
b=bed
w=window
d=door
t=tv
g=amp/guitars
c=comp

what would be the most effective arrangement?

ALSO, what do you think of this?:

Front Speakers= Sony SS-MB350H

or

Cambridge Soundworks Newton Series M80 (little too expensive)

These are what CR have stated as some good stuff, what's your input? You see, the 170SE's haven't come out yet and i'm really anxious... But i don't want to get the worse of the 2 models (170) for just a little less money for a big performance difference. Is there another you recommend that's got better performance numbers (no more than $450 for pair).Get back to me whenver you got the time, take care, thanks for the help. -peace
January 23, 2006 9:03:05 PM

I like how you are starting with a stereo setup first...looks like you've realized your size constraints and chose accordingly instead of stuffing speakers into a small room : )

Well, have you auditioned to see what type of speakers you want? Neutral (accurate) or skewed toward bright, or warm?

I'd recommend Energy C-3 ($250), Ascend CBM-170 for neutral speakers. For $250 used the Ascend 170s are going to be much better engineered than most B&M (retail) brands.


For example: http://cls.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?spkrmoni&1141854...

(Most audio enthusiasts consider Audiogon VERY reliable, as I have yet to hear about any shady activity, so you can bet your socks you'll get well groomed speakers, probably have ben run on much more expensive equipment then you would ever consider using).

For accurate with a slight bright flavor, I would suggest the Axiom M3ti ($250) or Axiom M22ti ($400) from the Axiom outlet, or used for cheaper at Audiogon.

The Cambridge Soundworks M80 you listed at $500 is a 3-way design (tweeter, midrange, woofer). Now I've never seen measurements or heard them, but 3-way designs are VERY difficult to properly integrate as well as a 2-way design, due to extra crossover points to integrate, plus 3 drivers have twice as many roll-off points to worry about. I don't even see the point of a poly based midrange AND midbass driver, since for the midrange you want a stiffer, more detailed and less distorting material. I seriously would suspect that design (compared to a quality 2-way). Same for the Sony. Most 3-ways these days are designed in order to put a 2" midrange made of some stiff driver crossed out of its resonance frequency. In other words, its done for an engineering purpose, not just for looks or for the heck of putting 3 drivers together.

If you are willing to spend $500...put that into something that's well engineered I would say. At this price range, you *won't* find a 3-way design that's very competent. Part of the reason is cost of drivers, crossovers, and most of all, crossover integration. You don't find many people in the DIY field (do it yourself) even willing to being to tackle the challenege of 3-way designs. If you want a bass driver, get it from a subwoofer. It'll extend further and sound less colored than from a resonanting bookshelf cabinet. Competently-designed, *economical* 3-way designs are very expensive. The NHT classic three ($800) and the Energy Veritas v2.2i ($1,000) come to mind. These are no frills speakers with serious money pumped into engineering; 2" aluminum midranges for detail (crossed over outside of resonance), poly midbass drivers, and quality tweeters.

If you wan't my opinion, I believe Energy, NHT, Ascend, Axiom are all brands that are on "another level" in terms of neutrality and design. I think you should give these a listen first, after all return shipping for $15 isn't that big of a deal to find the *right* speaker for you. While I can't decide for you, I can suggest to you what's very popular among audio enthusiats. What I've heard from Cambridge Soundworks hasn't really impressed me as much, maybe because of their driver material. That's not to say it's not for you. If you think it is, try to hear it first to see if its worth a $500 investment to you.

But in my opinion, the difference between the Ascend 170 and SE far smaller than that of the the Cambridge M80s (I think you are overplaying the difference...I've heard both, and the primary difference is some bass extension and more control of the highs during high volumes). Ascend is an off-shoot of former M&K employees (their speakers even look the same as M&K). The difference is, M&K has a long history, an "audiophile name," and charges a premium for their speakers. Ascend (like Axiom, Energy) have the history and the research but not the Audiophile name, instead they have value from 25 years of conglomerated research at Canada's national research facility (NRC), where they used *real* measurements at top-rate anechoic facilities, where as some of the retail and audiophile names are built more from experience, and a certain "flavor" (not accuracy clearly) that their customers have come to respect, and pay a premium for.

I am surprised you chose one pair for $100 and another for $500, that's a pretty wide range : P
January 24, 2006 6:01:38 PM

went down to BestBuy and listened to some of their HT speakers. The only thing that sparked my interest were the Klipsch B-2. I thought they sounded good compared to others, since others were mainly for dvd's and not music...

I would assume these are a little brighter than the floorspeakers the Klipsch setup had? the Bose were mainly for DVD's and they seemed too scractchy and bright...

I'll check out those brands you recommended, too. hopefully magnolia,bestbuy,or some retail has em' so i can check em out. thanks for the help, i'll let you know the results. -later
January 24, 2006 9:26:02 PM

Klipsch is generally considered amongst the brightest speakers (because if you look at the shape of the tweeter enclosure, it's a "horn" that goes starting from 0.75" to 4" diameter, and this elevates the volume of the highs). Some people can't stand them (the brightness), and for some people (who watch movies exclusively I hear) it does just fine. If you can listen to 2-channel music without fatigue on them, they would be a decent loudpspeaker, especially considering they are very efficient (require less power; can crank them up higher).

The floorstanders would might *seem* less bright, because brightness is a relative term; floorstanders will have more bass and this will make the sound fuller and appear less tilted in the high end. However, it's still there (the highs from the horn tweeter) so if its too bright for you, well almost every other brand is more laid back!

Enjoy your auditioning!
January 28, 2006 11:51:53 PM

in regards to my previous post

Quote:
my room is pretty much the size of a single dorm room (2nd yr. of college, livin' at home until transfer). I basically have 11'x9' of room, plus i got:
6'x5' bed
4'x2' computer desk
27" TV (2'x2' amount of space it takes up with the stand)
guitars and amp...

so, i have no idea how i'm going to setup my room... what's the ideal setup in my case? i want to be able to get the surround effect and still have enough room to walk...

room setup:
_____________________________
|............wwwwwwwwwww............|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ttttt|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ttttt|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ggg|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb....................ggg|
|bbbbbbbbbbbbbb..........................|
|............................................cccccc|
|............................................cccccc|
|............................................cccccc|
|dddddd................................cccccc|

so basically,
b=bed
w=window
d=door
t=tv
g=amp/guitars
c=comp


What would be the most effective setup for my room? I kinda want somethin that i would want to stick to for a while, so far i haven't found the right setup, any suggestions? (don't want to take pics of room nor do photoshop/or paint, so i just did this)
January 29, 2006 7:54:14 AM

I suggest you move your furniture around hehe.

I don't know how much room you have but for me, my room looks like

-----------------------------------------
......................Table.........Bed
W...L...TV...R....................Bed
.......................................Bed
...........PC..............................Door
------------------------------------------

Room is around 11x16 feet

W = window
L/R = speakers
TV=TV
PC=PC on a 6 foot long Costco table
3 "Beds" = Bed vertically alligned
Door=Door
Table=4 foot Costco Table

I set it up so my speakers are both for the TV and my PC. Maybe you can do some furniture moving and do something similar.

For example, move the bed to where the comp is. Set the comp in front of the TV. Maybe get a wide table like mine and just move the monitor asside during TV watching. I also purchased a VGA-to-component adaptor so I can use the TV for video from the PC (hey, who needs a DVD player when you can just view your downloads on your TV, and use ur PC dvd drive as your player?)

Just my take. : P
January 30, 2006 1:02:48 AM

ok, i re-arranged my stuff, now i need to turn up the rear's so i can get the full surround effect, thanks, i'll let you know how it turns out.
January 30, 2006 4:26:56 AM

k, everythings workin' great. quick question:
- what's the best DVD player for PC? (Ulead,PowerDVD,etc)
- link,cost,reviews,what's all the info on it.

just lemme know whenever you got the time, the sooner the better if you can would be awesome. thanks for all the help -later
January 31, 2006 8:11:24 PM

SOFTWARE DVD Player?

They all pretty much do the same thing as far as I'm concerned...just make sure you have the full editiion with DD5.1/DTS playback and you're good to go. Image quality is mostly a function of your video card's processing (this is where owning an ATI video card is an advantage, with better 2D image processing; H264 and 1080i image delacing)
September 6, 2006 3:32:23 AM

here's the list, so what's my best bet? i can up the cost if there's quite a significant difference in performance/price ratio.....

1.) front speakers:
-Epos M5 loudspeaker
-Epos ELS-3
-Ascend CBM 170SE
-Ascend CBM 340SE
-Axiom M-2/M-3/M-22
...or?
---
---
---
---
future reference, what should i get for (A&B)?:
A.) center:
CMT-340SE center
Ascend 340SE
...or?

B.)sub:

-HSU
-SVS
=============
What i have/will get:
Kenwood VR-407
RCA to stereo mini converter
coaxial cable
September 6, 2006 4:03:17 AM

I suggest the X-fi which can be found for 89-130 smackers, speakers, 80 watts from a reputable company like creative, logitech, etc.
September 6, 2006 4:42:06 AM

I would recommend going to the links in my signature (avsforum, audioholics) to get a better idea of how others would rate the speakers you are looking at, since many of them may have heard the speakers in question.

From my personal experience, Epos and Axiom are going to have a similar sound signature, which is neutral with a jazzy high end, while the Ascends are neutral all the way. I personally found the Axioms a bit fatiguing, which is any issue people who have a wider hearing bandwidth have with speakers that use aluminum cone drivers and tweeters (a bit of high frequency ringing). Most people actually don't have hearing far out enough for it to be an issue, so it's a case by case basis.

With the Ascends you can generally get away without a seperate subwoofer for music as the speakers themselves extend down to 45hz (-3db). The Axioms would definitely need a sub, from my personal experience with them, as they don't really have audible output below 60hz. Both the Epos speakers have smaller 5" drivers and with speakers this size and this price range, generally you are going to have very questionable bass (which by the specifications on the two models I can see are true).

At $650 for the M5 you are opening a whole new can of worms and there are *tons* of good speakers at that price range, such as B-stock Onix 1 Refs and the Ascend CMT-340SEs, all of which will have a ton of more bass (and overall bandwith than the M5s). As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of aluminum 5" and 1" drivers, but the best way to tell is for you to try them out to see which you prefer the most in a speaker shootout. But in terms of online buzz, I think there's a lot more buzz for Ascends and the new Boston Acoustics range at this price range.
September 6, 2006 6:09:55 AM

Quote:

With the Ascends you can generally get away without a seperate subwoofer for music as the speakers themselves extend down to 45hz (-3db)

So no sub, huh? (i will do a lot of movie watchin', too when i get the HDTV)

Quote:

At $650 for the M5 you are opening a whole new can of worms and there are *tons* of good speakers at that price range, such as B-stock Onix 1 Refs and the Ascend CMT-340SEs, all of which will have a ton of more bass (and overall bandwith than the M5s). As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of aluminum 5" and 1" drivers, but the best way to tell is for you to try them out to see which you prefer the most in a speaker shootout. But in terms of online buzz, I think there's a lot more buzz for Ascends and the new Boston Acoustics range at this price range.

-which is better?BA or Ascend?
-which will i have the option to be able to get rears/sub/center with and have timbre all-around?
-or can i just get the $350 Ascend SE's and put more money $$$ into another HT component? which is better you think? (what should i spend my money wi$ely on?).im looking to get speakers before the week ends or more if you recommend it
-sorry to ask again, will i need an amplifier to power these? (my recording unit for my PC requires that i have 'active' speakers in order to hear what im recording/ or use headphones instead. would they be considered 'active' hooked up to my Kenwood?)

i really appreciate the response time of your guys' replies. i appreciate all the help. lemme know ASAP about your advice/opinions/etc if possible. take care! 8)
September 6, 2006 6:34:16 AM

Quote:

With the Ascends you can generally get away without a seperate subwoofer for music as the speakers themselves extend down to 45hz (-3db)

So no sub, huh? (i will do a lot of movie watchin', too when i get the HDTV)

Well with heavy reinforced bass for action movies you need a seperate sub regardless; a large monitor like the 340SEs can give you the bass you want, but the strain on your amp will be ridiculous. But it sounds like you are going for a Hsu or SVS sub anyway =D

Quote:

-which is better?BA or Ascend?


Depends who you ask, there was a large thread about this on avsforums (just use the search). The retail on the Boston Acoustics VR3s are $1250 vs $670 for the Ascend 340SEs with the stands ($550 by themselves), so it's not apples to apples (though the BAs can be had for as low as $850 if you look hard enough). The Bostons also have the better finish vs the innocuous black finish. The Bostons would be like the Axioms or Epos on drugs, Ascend type neutrality in the midrange and upperbass, a jazzy high range but none of that cone resonance that you get with the cheaper cost aluminum cone speakers. Again, preferences, preferences.

Quote:

-which will i have the option to be able to get rears/sub/center with and have timbre all-around?
I think both, though Ascend will be cheaper.

Quote:

-or can i just get the $350 Ascend SE's and put more money $$$ into another HT component? which is better you think? (what should i spend my money wi$ely on?).im looking to get speakers before the week ends or more if you recommend it.


I like the design of the 340s for home theater. It really depends on what kind of movies you watch and how loud you watch, but two 6.5"s will hit the same volume as the 170s with 1/2 the distortion. This may be very important for DVDs, many of which have a very low average volume and require a lot of amplification, and the better power handling of the 340s will help to make it sound cleaner when you are running your amp at 80%-90% volume (something you'll have to do for movies like War of the Worlds, which has a very low average volume but massive transient peaks during battles). This probably is far less of a problem for HDTV, as my experience is they add a lot of volume gain which is far above normal DVD volume levels.)

One bit of warning, not all receiver/amps are made equal. That's one of the reasons I upgraded to a new Panasonic digital receiver, I used to have an old Sony (STR-DE897) that would produce a lot of tweeter hiss above 55%) volume. If found out that the Sony was not alone on demos to various shops, *alot* of inexpensive amps suffer from this problem. It hurts alot during dvd movies with low average volume, because you have to turn it up to hear the volume, and as a result you get a lot of noise in the tweeter. Once you get new speakers and turn the volume up, you might get the urge to upgrade the amp too =P

Quote:
sorry to ask again, will i need an amplifier to power these? (my recording unit for my PC requires that i have 'active' speakers in order to hear what im recording/ or use headphones instead. would they be considered 'active' hooked up to my Kenwood?)


Yes, you need an amp for them, as they are passive speakers. Active generally just means the amp is in the speakers already. Yes, if you hook them up to your Kenwood amp, they will be equivalently "active".

Quote:
i really appreciate the response time of your guys' replies. i appreciate all the help. lemme know ASAP about your advice/opinions/etc if possible. take care! 8)


You really should goto AVSforum at the least for more knowledgeable advice =)
September 6, 2006 7:09:01 AM

Astrallite pretty much said it... Its all about what sounds good to you!

About the tweeter hiss... I hear this on my Pioneer VSX 815k at a very high volume... But at such volumes, my speakers would be over-driven and distort. Just thaught I would bring that by you.

Ever since I got my bookshelf speakers with a 6.5" driver, I dont think I could ever go smaller. Especially without a sub.


What is the size and shape of your room? If its rather small like mine, then you may not need a sub and get very good bass response with just a bookshelf speaker like I do.
September 6, 2006 7:43:00 AM

Quote:
HT is a whole 'nother league compared to PC speakers in both sound quality (accuracy, performance off-axis, linearity, dispersion, clarity, etc) and price.


(1)SPEAKERS
For speakers, for a 5.1 setup, a popular starting point would be the SVS SBS-01 set that includes the well-received PB-10 subwoofer, for $999.

http://www.svsound.com/products-sys-sbs.cfm

You can see from the measurements and the components used, this is a speaker setup that is going be superior to most sets in this price range...at the cost of cosmetics.

Now not everyone has the ear for it, but if you want to go into real audiophile territory, in terms of tonal accuracy, you can get five Ascend CBM-170SEs for around $900, plus say a Hsu STF-2 (roughly equivalent to the PB-10) for around $399. Total price is around $1,300. The Ascends are +/- 1.5db from 60-20Khz, and the sub will bring that linearity to +/-3db 25-20KHz. It's almost impossible for me to convey just how *accurate* and *linear* this system is.

Common computer multimedia speakers with single-3 inch drivers commonly measure +/-7.5db 120-13KHz, for reference. The lack of a tweeter means highs fall off quickly, and multimedia subs, if you have experience with them, do not truly integrate, but *overpower* satellites and accuracy below 120hz drops off significantly.

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/

These are two of the most exciting speaker products that have been recently released, and being internet direct brands the price they offer for this performance level you would have trouble, or actually, impossibility to find in retail brands, from SEAs tweeters, modified Audax composite aerogel/polygel woofers, Linkwitz-Riley crossovers, etc. You won't be dissapointed. To say the least, these loudspeakers are a head above the competition, and we are talking about highly-valued names like B&W, Energy, PSB, Paradigm, Monitor Audio, etc. Ascend and SVS provide everything you need to know about the performance of their loudspeakers, including graphs on frequency response, off-axis, impedence, and spectral decay.

If this is above your budget, the most common advice is to build up, and start with a stereo pair and a receiver and set the foundation for a speaker setup that can last you for 20+ years. On the flip side, if you have no patience for this sort of thing and like to go through "pre-built home-theater-in-a-box" speaker sets like one video game console after the next, every couple of years...well that's your choice too. In that case any number of satellite/speaker combinations for around $300-500 might satisfy your needs, although acoustically, to the high value SVS or Ascend setups, would be like comparing a 486 to a Pentium III. Economically, I would like to point out going through periodic "upgrades" every few years ends up costing a lot more than building up your dream setup over time. But some people really have no patience for even a slight challenege, and so for them their value judgements are a bit different, as they are willing to accept less performance and throw a few middling dollars every few years to "slightly improve" their audio problem.

I commonly see guys in forums in Anandtech who have gone through something like this the last 8 years: bought Altec Lansing ATP3, gave to dad, two years later, bought Logitech Z-640s, threw that in the garage, two years later bought Logitech Z-680s, gave that to a cousin, three years later, bought Logitech Z-5500s, sold them, then bought Creative S750...the process goes on forever. This is what I am talking about...it's like an exercise in futility. I am constantly "told" by people like this that I am a golden-eared audiophile who throws my money at things they can't even perceive, that what they have is more than enough.

My question to them--1) why do you keep upgrading if you are always so satisfied? and 2) why do you think I throw my money away when you've clearly spent more money on audio the last ten years than I have, actually more like 3 times as much?--I've spent $600, you've spent over $1,500... and 3) Doesn't your behavior seem more like you aren't utilizing your money the best and not I?...but these questions usually fall on deaf ears and they accuse me of being an "audiophile" like I have the plague or something. Such is life : P

(2) Receiver

The popular receiver these days is the digitally amplified Panasonic SA-XR55. You can find out all you want about it here:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=530504
(If you don't have the patience, basically it's a highly valued receiver, and has all the regular shabangs including DD5.1/DTS/Prologic 2x, etc)

Suffice to say at $230 it provides more power than most $800 ones with lower distortion figures, more linearity, and lower noise floor. To take advantage of this you will need to connect digitally to your receiver, as it is a digital WPM receiver...on to the sound card.


(2) Sound card

For gaming needs, I would suggest the Bluegears X-mystique or Turtle Beach Montenegro. These both do real-time Dolby Digital encoding like the old nforce 2 motherboards used to do, and this allows you to connect digitally to your receiver and have all the surround gaming goodness as well. This is a good thing...your music will be significantly more noise-free through digital pass-through and have the receiver do the primary processing than analog, where your sound card gets into the mix and adds noise.

Reading your other thread, I see you really want to get into the recording thing. I'm not experienced with this, and the Dolby Digital Live (DDL) cards I offered might not be of much help there. There is some compromise to be had with these consumer electronics. Perhaps an analog card with a breakout box might work for you better, all things given.

(4) Software

Sorry, I don't do much recording. Can't help you much there.

(5) Sub
Hsu or SVS are considered market leaders. Stick with them, unless you can't fit them into your budget. Then I would suggest looking at older Mirage subwoofers, like the S12, or even a cheap $150 one like the Dayton Sub-120 at partsexpress.com (it won't give you the heartpounding subsonic 20hz bass...but that's for movies mostly, music doesn't go that low in general, and games certainly don't either).

(6) DVD Player

Panasonic S77/97 or Oppo OPDV971H...IF you have a large screen TV, as the poor image quality of many DVD players become apparent on larger screens (40" and above). Things like color saturation, chroma issues, are fixed (or at least improved) with the faroujda based chipsets on both players. Roughly $200-300 for each player. If you run a 27" TV, then any old cheap DVD player in the $60-100 would work for you, since the TV would hide most image quality problems.

(7) Hookups

A toslink or coaxial digital cable. That's it, if you follow the easy route I gave you. If you need something else (like something of significantly lower budget), we may start running into more cables, more clutter, etc.

If you go analog card with breakout box, you *can* use the digital out for music and 3 analog cables for gaming (to the receiver). If the extra digital cable is a hassle to you for music, then use the regular analog cable, and I suppose Creative's resampling has improved somewhat so that distortion with music playback is less of an issue.

Hope this helps :) 


This needs to be stickied in another thread. A post that has been (or needs to be) repeated way too many times on this board.
September 6, 2006 7:55:16 AM

Quote:
As good as the Ascend CBM-170 speakers may be, they will cost you $350 for a single pair.


Worth it. I have a pair and they're better than any of my gamer friend's PC speaker setups. There's no comparison.

Quote:
I would have to assume the CBM-170SE Signature Edition speakers would sell for well over $350 / pair.


About $20 more.

Quote:
These speakers would also require an external amplifier for an extra $299 if using the cheapest amplifier from the ascend website.


The reciever astrallite recommended is only $230.

Quote:
So we're already talking $750 for an amp and 2 speakers and $1400 for a complete system (6.1 + amp).

The Klipsch 5.1 speakers are only $299 and are some of the best speakers I have ever experienced. If I were building a home theater system I would use Klipsch instead of overpriced home theater speakers.


A custom system will last longer than any pc speaker setup, and you'll get more enjoyment in the meantime. What I mean by this is, you won't be buying a new set every 2-3 years. You'll be sticking with your HT system for 10 years or more.

I take it you didn't read anything astrallite said?

I'm going to take this excerpt from another thread that I've replied to, simply because if people keep saying their PC speakers are the best they've ever heard, they haven't really heard anything, have they?

"At the risk of sounding like an idiot and/or complete jerk or troll - in general, the only people who think PC speakers are nice either incapable of telling the difference between quality sound, or they've just never heard better sound and as such have nothing better to compare it to. If you only knew about Ford and Chevrolet cars, you'd think they were the best things in the world. Then you find out about the Ferrari F430, or a Lambo Murcielago, and you are introduced to a whole new world."
September 6, 2006 8:36:18 AM

Quote:

"At the risk of sounding like an idiot and/or complete jerk or troll - in general, the only people who think PC speakers are nice either incapable of telling the difference between quality sound, or they've just never heard better sound and as such have nothing better to compare it to. If you only knew about Ford and Chevrolet cars, you'd think they were the best things in the world. Then you find out about the Ferrari F430, or a Lambo Murcielago, and you are introduced to a whole new world."


I agree 100%

Do some listening... If you want good sound (What is good is defined by you) then be prepared to spend the $$$ for it.
September 6, 2006 8:41:35 AM

Quote:
ok, so Digital doesn't offer surround, weird...


not to throw any needless confusion in, if this has already been addressed... but no, typical sound cards do NOT offer surround for your games or music over a single digital cable (optical toslink/rca coaxial) to a digital amplifier... you would only get 2 channels that way, your front left and right speakers... because the sound is only output as a 2 channel pcm signal...

if you DO want surround sound from your games and music over a digital connection, you would need a dolby digital live/DTS interactive encoding sound card... those are the ONLY kinds of cards that can deliver surround sound over a digital connection...

also, using a digital connection will allow you to take advantage of dolby digital 2.1/5.1, dts 2.1/5.1/6.1, and dolby digital ex/dts es 6.1/7.1 surround from your dvds (and ddl/dts sound cards)... over analog, you wont be capable of getting that

also, as far as sound quality differences between the turtle beach montego ddl, and the hda blue gears x-mystique over a digital connection, there are none... they both use the same chipset, but are distributed by different manufacturers, the x-mystique may be a better purchase though because it has both coaxial and optical for its digital connections, the montego ddl only has optical for its digital connections... other than that though, theres no differences really...

anyhow, yeah...
September 6, 2006 9:32:12 PM

what?!

astrallite said that analog is the way to go...then how will i use my X-Fi card then?
- id have to use both X-Fi and the x-mystique?

-----
in regards to all repiles that say i should listen and try before buy, well i don't have any retail/audio shops around here that i know of that have anything relatively close to performance according to everyone's replies from other threads (online retailers/etc exceed over stores,etc).

i figured id just ask the pros and/or enthusiasts what they know is the best since i gotta buy em' to try em' in the 1st place. seems like every forum recommends Ascends or some others...

all i want is:
- should i spend $350 or more on speakers or buy $350 and invest in other components or what should i spend my money on now?... (clear?)
- what accessories/cables/cards/etc i will specifically need so i know whether to go analog or digital since there's 2 sides now...(*sigh)

thanks in advance for replies and for those who have helped me through the process. take care, please post back ASAP (since i will prob order what i need/you recommend tomorrow) if possible. 8)
!