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400-600 budget on new speakers

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January 26, 2007 1:19:19 AM

Hey, I'm not the best with speakers, and was wondering what I should go for on a 400-600 dollar budget. I don't mind if its 5.1 or 7.1, whichever is better, my room size is 20ft x 13 ft(former 2 car garage room).

I've been looking at creative's gigaworks system, the logitech system, also saw the klipsch 5.1 system. I'm gonna get a X-Fi card shortly after I buy my new speakers.

I would be using it for about anything, I have a lot of music, games, and movies, so I would prefer it to be a good all around system. I currently only have this poopoutofabox kinyo 5.1 system(lol 3 watts rms each, pretty terrible, was cheap though).

I don't really need any upgrades for my computer or TV so was looking to upgrade my speakers.


I've heard the woofer on creative's gigaworks system tends to die after a year or so, so I would also have to get a 2-3 year warranty with it if I were to get that.

More about : 400 600 budget speakers

January 26, 2007 1:59:21 AM

Is space a limitation? (in terms of size of speakers).

If you have a large budget, I would definitely look at larger speakers vs regular PC speakers:

1) better frequency response (more accurate)
2) better frequency response throughout the room (very good dispersion/maintains consistent sound throughout; placement becomes less important).
3) does not struggle voicing DVDs/movies

Personally if I had to buy PC speakers only, I would probably get two Klipsch iFis (2x2.1s or "4.2" if you like). I'm not too keen on PC speaker center channels, due to point #3. The DD 5.1/DTS algorithm will automatically down-mix the center channel to the right/left channels if a signal is not detected. The iFi's have probably the most impressive satellite speakers I've seen in PC speakers, and having two channels handling the center vocals will probably be a better bet than one little PC satellite speaker struggling to output the volume.
January 26, 2007 2:47:56 AM

Quote:
Is space a limitation? (in terms of size of speakers).

If you have a large budget, I would definitely look at larger speakers vs regular PC speakers:

1) better frequency response (more accurate)
2) better frequency response throughout the room (very good dispersion/maintains consistent sound throughout; placement becomes less important).
3) does not struggle voicing DVDs/movies

Personally if I had to buy PC speakers only, I would probably get two Klipsch iFis (2x2.1s or "4.2" if you like). I'm not too keen on PC speaker center channels, due to point #3. The DD 5.1/DTS algorithm will automatically down-mix the center channel to the right/left channels if a signal is not detected. The iFi's have probably the most impressive satellite speakers I've seen in PC speakers, and having two channels handling the center vocals will probably be a better bet than one little PC satellite speaker struggling to output the volume.


Space doesn't really matter, I have plenty of space in my room. But would 400-600 dollars get me a good quality system with reciever/5 speakers / woofer?
Related resources
January 26, 2007 5:07:39 AM

Definitely.

Athena, Infinity Primus, Paradigm, Energy, Klipsch, Insignia, the list goes on and on and on...

Some examples:

Athena AS-B1and AS-C1 center - 5 speakers ~$330
Measurements:


Infinity Primus 150 - 5 speakers ~$250
Measurements:


Insignia NSB2111 - 6 speakers ~$200


-------------------------------------------------------
Subwoofer - Dayton 8, 10, or 12" ~$90-150
http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?&Partnumber...
http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/pshowdetl.cfm?DID=7&Part...
http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=...

------------------------------------------------------

Receiver - Most mass market receivers are very similar in terms of features and power output. As long as you avoid Sony, I think you can't screw yourself over here. An example - Onkyo SR503 - $170

http://www.accessories4less.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?it...

So just the few examples I gave above are around $470-650, and they are all very similar performance. You can easily do better than the price I gave for the receiver online, and you might not even feel the need for the subwoofer for a while either, as the bass is pretty satisfactory on bookshelf level speakers if you are comparing them to PC speakers.

Here's an example of the Insignia's on someone's PC desk:




Infinity Primus 150s:


Here's some of Athena AS-B1s:






Here's some pics of the Onix AV123 X-LS system...puppies are $220 per pair and considered *the* best performing bookshelves at $250 and under on the market because of their extremely flat frequency response 60-27,000hz +/-1.8db.


Finally, here are my speakers:



Very ugly, I know, but at $350 I knew I was just paying exclusively for the drivers and not for the looks. 60-20,000hz +/- 1.1db :D 

And if your budget ever gets bigger...

The very popular Panasonic SA-XR series of digital receivers. Popular because they are using new (commercially) waveform modulation technology that allows them to perform with very low distortion (0.003% THD) that's similar to analog receivers in the $1,000 and up class.



The reason I'm showing you some of these more expensive speakers is not for you to spend more money (directly). But, many people start up with a stereo pair first then add channels latter. For example, the X-LS has a very capable 6.5" midrange driver (as do the Ascends) and they both extend deeper than the 5.25-5.5" ones from the Athenas and Infinities. So, some people think "I'll be fine with bass that basically extends to 40hz from just the bookshelves, and add a sub and more speakers later when I have more money." That sort of thing.
January 26, 2007 5:39:28 AM

Quote:

Receiver - Most mass market receivers are very similar in terms of features and power output. As long as you avoid Sony, I think you can't screw yourself over here. An example - Onkyo SR503 - $170


Heh, not a problem, not really a fan of sony, especially lately(lets just say I'm not a fan of the ps3 :D ). Ya I saw some reviews for some Onkyo recievers on cnet and they look pretty good. I've got 2 12" woofers in the closet from when my bro had this room, but he says they're only 50 watts, not sure. Also I have 2 tower speakers in the closet too, but the tweeters are blown, not exactly sure on the wattage on those.

Quote:

Very ugly, I know, but at $350 I knew I was just paying exclusively for the drivers and not for the looks. 60-20,000hz +/- 1.1db


Ya, I don't really care about the looks, im not gonna be staring at the speakers, just listening to them lol, im sure thats how you feel



Looks like a good list of things you gave me, thanks for all the help. Once I get the speakers i get to save for a 42" LCD HDTV, have a 27" LCD right now that I also use as my monitor, gonna make sure the new one is 1080p so I can have a resolution higher than 1360x768. I like the nice price drops on TV's lately.

When I get a little closer to ordering the speakers I'll post what I decide in this thread(about a month off), and see if it's a good set :D .
January 26, 2007 6:18:21 AM

Hey, good to hear from you. Hope you enjoy whatever you decide to buy in the end, I'd love to hear from your experiences.

I personally went through quite a few sets of PC speakers through the years--Altec Lansing ATP5s, Logitech Z-680s, AL MX5020s...I was never really satisfied with the sound, especially since my parents had a real HT Paradigm system downstairs, and the difference was so huge I started hunting for speaker deals. Looking through sites like avsforums, 3dss, anandtech, really opened my eyes to what real speakers are.

The bookshelf/tower market is so competitive its almost cutthroat, and that really helps the consumer because quality keeps improving year after year. The PC speaker market on the other hand, is pretty stagnant (Logitech is still using the same Tangband 3" drivers after 7 years, Klipsch hasn't done anything with their drivers other than use a slightly different crossover after 6 years of the PM line)...the same drivers are regurgitated year after year after year in slightly different shaped enclosures and "newer looks."
January 26, 2007 6:40:11 AM

So, what you said about a gradual system, where I could get a few speakers a month or something. Where would be a good place to start? I don't have a reciever or anything atm.

I'd prefer to get a good 7.1 reciever and once I get a few speakers get a woofer, and then proceed to 7.1


I could buy em 1 by 1

How Would this sound?

1. Reciever- Panasonic XR57S http://reviews.cnet.com/Panasonic_SA_XR57S_AV_receiver_...

2. Subwoofer- Polk Audio PSW10
http://www.polkaudio.com/homeaudio/reviews/individual/s...

3. Center Channel- Onix AV123 X-LS http://www.av123.com/products_product.php?section=speak...

4. Speakers- 3 pairs of X-LS http://www.av123.com/products_product.php?section=speak...


If I do the grudual system I think I'll be happier in the end and it'll last me a while, also my budget for them will be a bit more.

Overall, anything I buy will outdo what I have now- http://www.kinyo.com/product-GZ-tw527.html
January 26, 2007 11:24:10 AM

Hey, I'll take a closer look at this later but first:

if you have a decent budget, or plan on saving up for better parts, I wouldn't get the Polk PSW10. I bought it off craigslist for like $50 because it was a great price, not because it was a great subwoofer. I'm not much of a bass hound so it's very satisfactory for me.

I rarely watch action movies so bass is not a big deal for me. I don't usually have the subwoofer on during music as well; a lot of musical purists don't, because there are some technical issues on the physics side with subwoofers that make them ineffective for musical playback (bass on subwoofers are time-delayed; its also a mish-mash of the bass on all channels...unless you are willing to spend a veritable fortune a sealed subwoofer for each speaker, and an amplifier with a sub-out for each channel, you are going to get time-delayed bass). Unless I'm just pumping loud rock or hip hop that is...but mostly I listen to laid back music with lots of instrumentals, and time-delayed bass sounds really, really weird when you have a clean system; with PC speakers there's so much distortion you can't tell anyway.

Though, I think for me more than anything was that I'm a college student and I have neighbors, and bass bothers people more than anything. You can have your music so loud, people from a couple of apartments away can hear it, and no one will say anything. You have noisy, distorted bass on, and people get annoyed.

Unless you are just like me and just use the subwoofer as a volume-booster when you want to annoy to neighbors, I would save up for a better subwoofer. If you just want extension to 30hz, the $200 AV123 X-LS (color matches the X-LS speakers!) and the $250 Hsu STF-1 both go flat to around 28hz.

If you have a very open room, or plan on using it in a larger area like in a living room later, than a bigger, badder sub that goes subsonic (~20hz or lower) would be even better. Of course, they are expensive, and, they also don't work so well in smaller rooms as the wavelengths are too long to extend properly, so it never digs deep enough to get your money's worth.

Just some thoughts.

Here's a review of the X-LS that you are considering:
http://www.audioholics.com/productreviews/loudspeakers/...

And on page 3, the measurements (the lighter image seems like some image error, but the darker line is the actual frequency response):


As you can see, it's a very, very accurate speaker :>
January 26, 2007 3:47:07 PM

Take a $2000 pair of reference speakers and stick them in a typical computer room and they will sound like dog doo. Also, what someone else likes in sound is often a very personal thing and may not be what you like. Me, personally, I like a 100% accurate reproduction of what goes into the speaker. I want to hear what is on the CD without any alteration. Freq response charts are great and many of them are really flat, but they leave out other important information like phase response.

That being said, you stand a better chance of liking flatter response speakers than not. But then the personal taste thing comes in. Lots of folks swear by a particular brand because it makes the sound they like (my favorite is B&W). Others love JBL or Bose or even RatShack. Who am I to argue? If you like the sound, buy it. Go to a brick and mortar store and listen with YOUR ears. Evaluate the sound based on what you hear, not the name brand or cost.

Bottom line, you need to listen and decide what is better. I guess you can use inputs from others with respect to quality and reliability. Other than that, only you can decide.

If anyone ever wants to see how their system looks in their room, download SmaartLive from SIAsoft. It's a very high end spectrum analyzer that will show what is happening in the freq AND phase/time domain. Both are critical for good sound. Here's a graph of my $2000 speakers in a room:



I made adjustments using time alignment (phase), crossover adjustments and parametric equalization. This is what I was able to get to without treating the room:



If I put these speakers in an anachoic chamber, they would be flat without any help.

So, go listen to some speakers and buy the ones you like. If they turn out to be cheap, then spend the extra money on your wife/girlfriend/significant other.

Tom
January 26, 2007 11:21:35 PM

I agree, sound is entirely a preferential thing. I *believe* though, the majority of time though, given the option, people will prefer the more accurate speaker. Major research in Canadian state run NRC has come to that conclusion, many major US manufacturer's believe in it, and my experiences with large gatherings with blind testing reinforces this. So, yes, some people love their Bose or their JBLs or the Klipschs. I would love to say either they didn't research diligently or just bought the products and it "grew" on them, but maybe they ended up preferring it over other products, I honestly can't claim the fact. I've never met these people online (who said they've auditioned and preferred), but I'm sure they exist.


Flat response is *one* of the ideals of a good speaker. Good dispersion, low distortion, low spectral decay, good bracing, yadda yadda yadda. Manufactures of more expensive speakers are often trying to achieve things different things that come at the cost of frequency response--one of the major contested issues is lower order crossovers vs higher order crossovers; many of the more "expensive" manufacturers believe in lower order crossovers so there is less time-delay between the tweeter and the midrange driver. Other "expensive" manufacturers like Revel (and most lower cost ones) believe that time coherency is less important (since it doesn't approach subwoofer mating issues) so they focus more for frequency response.

Every manufacturer is different. I do know that, much of Canada's NRC shootoff companies believe strongly in frequency response (over time-coherence) and this has had a trickle down effect on a lot of American manufacturers as well.

Again, tight frequency response is not the end-all-be-all. But at the lower price segments, it usually represents a bonus; if we're considering mostly similar products, I'll take the one that's more accurate (I can always EQ it to a different "taste" later). At the higher price segments, designs focus on some fairly esoteric stuff (not to mention most of the very high price segment is designed for larger environments and focus on better dispersion first).
January 26, 2007 11:35:51 PM

Agree 100%. My favorite speakers of all time are B&W because they are flat, flat, flat. And very coherent. Not too expensive, either. I currently have PhaseTech speakers for my home system because they were a little cheaper when I bought them (17 years ago) and almost as clean as the B&W.

I despise Bose and JBL. I can tolerate Klipsch for a short while. I really, really like my PA system I have for my bands. 1800 watts on the tops, 4800 watts in the subs and very flat from 30 Hz to 18 kHz. I love setting that system up and turning it loose with Bobby McGee, Sarah Mclaughlin or something from Blue Man Group. I let folks A - B it with the unprocessed and processed signal. Wow, what a difference. The hard part is I have to change everything for each venue we play. I wish it were as simple as pushing sliders on a 31 band eq.

Good, clean sound will mesmerize you.

Tom
January 28, 2007 10:07:26 AM

The thing I hate about 5.1/7.1 systems is that it's just more damn speakers to deal with. In a home theater, that's one thing. But in a bedroom or office, it's a pain. You either have the hassle of attaching them to walls, which means you'll have to find a way to place your desk equidistant between them (more or less) and then not move it or you have to spend money on GOOD (so they they don't tip over!) speaker stands. And who has room even in a large computer room, office or bedroom to just stick a few speakers on stands in the middle of the room?!

That's why I tend to go for headsets when I need an immersive experience. Then invest the real money into a HIGH QUALITY 2.1 (or 3.1, if you want a left, right, center and sub).

That said, I bought a 5.1 Logitech Z-5300e about two years ago for $200 and it's pretty damn good. If you have an X-Fi, I hear that the Creative Labs 7.1 Gigaworks are pretty sweet.

Bose is largely a joke. They might sell to the guy who watches infomercials and thinks "damn, I need one of those!", but audiophiles tend to hate them. Of course, I'm speaking of this in the general home theater / stereo sense and perhaps Bose has better offerings when it comes to the PC line?

A lot of the more knowledgable reviews I've seen don't seem to care for Klipsch. You can spend hundreds of dollars on them but . . . meh. I have heard them in a demo store and didn't care much for them. I'm not an audiophile, but... they just sounded "off".

The only JBL I've used is the "Creature" line. It's a great 2.1 system if you are short on space, but want a great little soundsystem to dock your powerbook or something into at home (or in my case, at the office). But if you're looking to spend money . . . meh. I think I'd stay away from them.

I wish I could replicate my home theater setup on my PC, but I haven't found any PC-oriented sound system that comes close to my Bowers & Wilkins 802s. The front speakers alone on that system are about $6,000. Good god, they sound amazing, though. And more low range in them than any PC bass I've ever heard. Add on one of their $1,000-$1,500 B&W ASW subs and it'll rattle your teeth with undistorted lows. It's incredible. Playing Xbox 360 on them is amazing. Then returning to sit at my PC with a $200 5.1 system is . . . a serious let down.

Perhaps someone knows of a good demo store you can go to that has all of the PC line speakers arranged for you to listen to? If you're looking to buy a good home theater sound system, you can go to places (like ListenUp in Boulder Colorado -- which ROCKS!) and have them demo every piece of hardware you want to hear. Sadly, when it comes to PC sound systems, you're usually stuck with the one or two sound systems whatever retailer you're at happens to have. And you're VERY lucky if they even have them plugged in at all. And if they do, they likely aren't tuned properly. So . . . outside of other people's reviews on them, it's hard to say.
January 29, 2007 2:08:23 AM

Heh, I know you can get better by spending alot more money. Most of my suggestions were for an affordable solution to hi-fi sound, not to pump thousands of $. =P

The biggest problem with PC speakers vs the entry-level HT bookshelves and floorstanders is the materials, bracing, and poor design. So those who aren't entirely satisfied with PC speakers can be happy to know that in more or less the same price range they can pick up much better gear.

Bose is a private business that has focused on the brand recognition war. There's really no reason to "hate" Bose, as they are just doing what a Nike, Gucci, or other brand-based business does--spend most of their money on marketing and million dollar deals on athletes or cover people who will showcase their product.

A responsible customer will always research his products. And he will release very quickly that Bose is a brand-product that's not meant to compete with traditional loudspeakers. It's small, cute, and meant for the Wife Acceptance Factor. It's not meant to accurately reproduce sound--while small speakers struggle with accurate voicing, Bose uses $2 2.5" full-range drivers, which of course, is beyond sad.
January 29, 2007 11:05:25 PM

I agree with Astrallite.

I started off with the computer speakers and made mostly linear moves trying different brands. Logitech, Klipsch, Creative... All of them had an anemic sound in the midrange, shitty highs in the case of Logitech, and boomy bass among them all. Klipsch dual 8" ported sub was not that bad though.

I am currently an owner of those Insignia speakers that Astrallite posted. They are great sounding for the $50 I got them for. There is one thing though... I WANT MORE!!!! I will soon be the owner of those AV123 X-LS come March. From there... I don't know if I can afford anything else!

Currently Im looking into a 12" Rythmic Servo kit. $500 to get it up and running. I simply cant wait! I have a feeling its going to be the best BASS I will ever hear! Im betting they would blend nicely with those X-LX I want!

Don't be afraid to drop some $$$ into quality speakers and audio products. Its not like they will go obsolete like video cards do. Not to mention the satisfaction of pleasing equipment. :D 
!