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Which home audio system is the best?

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  • Speakers
  • Audio
Last response: in Home Audio
August 18, 2012 6:18:02 AM

Hi there,

I am totally new to home audio and to the forum as well. I am looking for a cheap second-hand audio system. I live in Calgary so the best place to look for such a system is kijiji website. There are tons of home audio systems out there but I have no clue which one is the best. The systems are usually quite outdated so I cannot find a good review for them either.

Here is the list of the options I found yet:

1. Pioneer SX-217-860W 5.1 Home Theater System
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Pio...

2. Denon Receiver (Denon AVR 3200, I guess) & Polk Audio Speakers (RT35i)
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-REC...

3. Yamaha amp model RX-V350 & Technics speakers model SB A28
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Yam...

4. http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Tow...

5. Sony STR-AV570 amp/receiver with 2 Sony SS-C57
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Son...

6. NUANCE STAR 1S SPEAKER PAIR (With Receiver)
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-NUA...

I usually listen to classical music so I guess I don't need large sub to make woooops sound. I also have a small hall (almost 25 sq. meters) so I don't need a high power system as well.

More about : home audio system

August 18, 2012 10:36:53 AM

First of all I would go to an audio place that sells new and used audio equipment not a website. It will cost you a little more but most will offer you trade in so if you buy equipment from them and you decide to up grade in a year they will give 100% trade in value. At least that is how it works in most places I have been too.

Second, classical music can be very demanding on audio equipment so some decent stuff is recommended. Spend the most money on speakers, that should be 2/3 of your budget.

Maybe find some used Paradigm speakers(they are made in Canada) very good speakers for the price. Also, NHT(also made in Canada) but no longer in business are very good.

Anyways the links you provided I would consider average at best and speaker wise not very good.

Happy listening, the Prisoner.
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August 18, 2012 4:51:14 PM

From those, my first choice would be the Denon receiver with Polk speakers, my second choice would be the Yamaha receiver with the Nuance speakers. I would not consider the others, the rest are pretty bad. You ought to add a subwoofer though, a good one will add depth to the sound, plus, if your receiver has any kind of bass management at all, it will take a load off the speakers and give that to the sub thereby reducing distortion overall.
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August 20, 2012 11:23:28 AM

Thank you guys for your helpful responses. Your replies encouraged me to spend a bit more on the system. So, let me ask a couple more questions. I think sound quality is almost every thing that I need to consider about the speakers (I know weight/dimension/appearance might be somewhat important). But how about the receiver? What should I consider while choosing an amp? Output power, impedance, number of channels, ...? How about the things such as types of input, sound effects, ...?

My other question is that if I'm not listening to 5.1 channel music, is there any benefit of having a 5.1 system or a stereo system is good enough. Do I have to have more than 2 speakers? More than 2 speakers does not mean more than 2 channels, right? But there might be some benefit to do so, I guess, right?

Sorry for the long list of questions. I appreciate your time.
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Best solution

August 20, 2012 5:27:17 PM

galaxytab62 said:
Thank you guys for your helpful responses. Your replies encouraged me to spend a bit more on the system. So, let me ask a couple more questions. I think sound quality is almost every thing that I need to consider about the speakers (I know weight/dimension/appearance might be somewhat important). But how about the receiver? What should I consider while choosing an amp? Output power, impedance, number of channels, ...? How about the things such as types of input, sound effects, ...?

My other question is that if I'm not listening to 5.1 channel music, is there any benefit of having a 5.1 system or a stereo system is good enough. Do I have to have more than 2 speakers? More than 2 speakers does not mean more than 2 channels, right? But there might be some benefit to do so, I guess, right?

Sorry for the long list of questions. I appreciate your time.


I wouldn't be too worried about output power of the receiver unless you really like to blast your system from time to time. You need a doubling of power just to get a 3 db gain in output, and 3 db isn't a whole lot, perceptually speaking. For example, if your speakers output 90 db for 100 watts, you would need 200 watts to get them to 93 db. The speaker's specs are what you should be more concerned for. If you like loud, look for the 'sensitivity' spec on your speakers. This is usually the measure of how loud they get at 1 meter for 1 watt. The average sensitivity spec is between 85 to 90 db. As for impedance, many entry level receivers aren't built to handle low-impedance speakers nowadays, this means 4 ohm loads, so if you end up with 4 ohm speakers, make sure your receiver is rated to handle them. This would be more of a problem with surround sound receivers than two channel receivers.

Some things to look for when selecting a speaker:
weight: heavier speakers for a given size can mean better internal bracing, and this reduces cabinet resonance, thus lowering distortion. Some examples of good/bad weight ratios: a bookshelf speaker weighing 20 lbs would probably have decent internal bracing. A big tower speaker weighing only 25 lbs is going to be a hollow box- and sound like one too.

Off-axis response: If you can get a third party measurement of the speaker don't just look at the on-axis response, see how well it does off-axis too. Much of the sound you are hearing when you listen to music in your room is the room's own acoustic reflections. So you will hear much off the speaker's off-axis sound as well as on axis, and if it doesn't measure well off-axis, you will be hearing that unless you are listening in an anechoic chamber. Speakers with wave-guides, horn-loaded tweeters, and coaxial drivers have been known to have great off-axis response, but that is a generalization, not a hard rule.

Another thing about receivers: surround sound receivers aren't bad at all for two channel listening. Many surround sound receivers come with room correction equalization software like Audyssey, this is a good thing. They also usually have better bass management than two channel receivers, another good thing. But, like I said above, entry level surround sound receivers don't take kindly to low impedance loads.

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August 20, 2012 9:16:48 PM

Thanks shadyj for your wonderful tips. Specially your first point amazed me. I work on wireless networks and there is exactly the same concept there but I have never thought of a same concept in sound systems.

So, you mean, I can derive a set of say 200w speakers with a 75w or 100w amp as long as I don't need to push the speakers into their limits (assuming the impedance is OK).

What if I buy a surround sound receiver and use it with only 2 speakers (+probably a sub)? That's because the place that I live in right now is quite a compact one and having 5-6 speakers comes at the cost of sleeping outdoor at nights :)  But it offers me the option to extend the speakers at a later time, right?
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August 20, 2012 9:23:17 PM

Shady's response was very well written and thought out. To answer the last piece of your question, more in depth... The Denon, or Yamaha will make a very good quality 2 channel Receiver (I use a denon 4802 for 2 channel in our sunroom). I would simply put your receiver in 2 channel direct mode. This bypasses most all of the DSP processing, and allows the most direct path to the amplifiers. Your receiver will require some fiddling if you add a sub, older denons didn't pass sub outputs when in direct. The denon/polk is a tremendous choice.

Edit responding to your post: yes, that denon gives you a good start into a 5 channel system when you are ready.
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August 20, 2012 9:59:16 PM

So, how do you compare the Denon/Polk combination (Option 2 above) with the following one:

Speakers: Acoustic Research 328 PS

http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Aco...

Receiver:

(A) Yamaha RX-V496
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Rec...

Or

(B) Onkyo TX-SR504E
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Onk...

Or

(C) Technics SA-DX940
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-Tec...

(D) AVR-220 Harman Kardon
http://calgary.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-electronics-AMP...

The other option would be to combine the Acoustic Research 328 PS with the Denon/Polk (but I really don't like it spacewise).
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August 20, 2012 10:35:46 PM

galaxytab62 said:
So, you mean, I can derive a set of say 200w speakers with a 75w or 100w amp as long as I don't need to push the speakers into their limits (assuming the impedance is OK).

What if I buy a surround sound receiver and use it with only 2 speakers (+probably a sub)? That's because the place that I live in right now is quite a compact one and having 5-6 speakers comes at the cost of sleeping outdoor at nights :)  But it offers me the option to extend the speakers at a later time, right?


Yes, your understanding is correct. Speakers spec'd for a certain amount of power can always take less than that amount. They will still get loud too, just not as loud as if you had the rated amount of power on tap. You can hook up speakers with amps more powerful than the speakers are rated for as well, you just don't want to push the speakers too hard on that amp, as the amp does have the ability to blow the drivers.

As was said, using a surround sound receiver is perfectly fine for two channel listening. Just make sure you configure it for two channel sound.

As for the Acoustic Research speakers you have listed, those are somewhat old speakers, they were made in 98. That doesn't mean they are bad though, but one thing to look at, if you want those, is the condition of the 'surrounds', that rubbery bubble thing that circles the cones and permits them to move in and out. Age can damage that part of the speaker. Make sure it isn't cracked or aged looking. Also ask to hear the speakers, preferably with a tune that you know well. If something doesn't sound right, if the song sounds muddy, or shrill, or lacking in bass or treble, skip those speakers.

The receivers will work fine. What is the source, or player, that you intend to hook them up to? CD player, computer, mp3 player? If it is a computer that has a digital output, I would recommend getting a receiver that has digital inputs. Many times the analogue audio output jacks on motherboard sound has lots of interference and noise because they are usually shoddily implemented.
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August 20, 2012 11:17:40 PM

galaxytab62 said:

My other question is that if I'm not listening to 5.1 channel music, is there any benefit of having a 5.1 system or a stereo system is good enough. Do I have to have more than 2 speakers? More than 2 speakers does not mean more than 2 channels, right? But there might be some benefit to do so, I guess, right?

Sorry for the long list of questions. I appreciate your time.


It doesn't look like anyone specifically answered this so I'll help out :) 

For most music it's just CD's and it doesn't really matter as there are 2 channels since it's really just a front and center stage they are recreating. However, in your case you like classical and I would actually say it could be worth it for you. As you may know that there have been several composers that like to have multiple points where the music is played from (you especially see this in choral). Though CD is 2 channel, there is music in dvd format which will give you 5.(1) which gives 5 discreet points. This has been used to recreate the multiple point performances.

Also, given that there are a lot of recordings in a Cathedral type setting, it doesn't feel quite right without rear speakers. You get the echos up front, but without the rear echos you know you're missing something.

Just something to consider,
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August 28, 2012 2:28:46 AM

Hi folks,

Finally, I bought a Denon AVR 2400 receivers, a pair of Polk Audio Speakers (RT35i), and a pair of Acoustic Research 328 PS speakers. I paid about 230$ for all of them.

The Acoustic Research speakers sound normal and clear. The Polk Audio speakers sound even nicer and crisper to me. I first connected only a pair of speakers to the receiver because I didn't have enough wire to connect all four. But for any pair, it sounded a bit low on bass. But once I connected all of the speakers, I felt an obvious difference. Now, everything looks fine. The sound quality, well, I can't say it's decent, but it's very good for what I paid.

The receiver has a 5 channel stereo option. It is also possible to disable the center channel. That's nice since I am not willing to get a center channel speaker. Actually, I have no room for such a speaker. Anyways, I may want to get a sub-woofer.

Thanks guys for your replies. They were really helpful.
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August 28, 2012 2:32:16 AM

Best answer selected by galaxytab62.
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