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09-18-2008, 11:29 AM
I'm looking to get into home audio and am looking for places to start. My living room, while not ideal, will be where I am placing my system. My system currently consists of a somewhat limited budget and the desire to learn... so, I am starting from scratch!

My living room is approx. 17' X 16' with vaulted ceilings up to 14'. It is connected to my dining area/kitchen behind the listener and a half wall on one of the sides.

I have listened to Polk Audio Monitor 70's, Paradigm Monitor 7 v.4s, and Klipsch floorstanders (I don't recall the model). I'm interested to hear opinions on bookshelf speakers, such as the Paradigm Studio 20's. The receivers I have listened to have all been Denon, but am interested in Onkyo products as well. I'm open to any suggestions, however.

I'm looking to start with the receiver and fronts and then upgrade from there. Looking to spend around $600 for the reciever and $1,000 for the fronts. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to reading any responses!


09-18-2008, 01:13 PM
Are you looking for 2 channel or multi channel for home theater? For bookshelf's consider NHT Classic 3's, B&W 685's, Monitor Audio RS-2's to name a few. For floor standers look at the B&W 684's and 683's, NHT Classic 4, Magnepan MG12's if your wife doesnt mind door panels for speakers. For a 2ch amp or receiver in the $600 range look at the outlawaudio RR2125, the Onkyo 9555 integrated amp. These will be much better than Denon and Onkyo in that price range.

09-18-2008, 02:29 PM
Thanks for the reply Blackraven,

I am a bachelor, so the only person that has to approve is my neighbor, and they don't get much say in it.

I am looking to make a 5.1 system out of this. The system will be used 70% for movies/TV and 30% for music.

I don't have much experience listening to different speakers, especially high end. It is tough to find dealers in Central California. What differences should I listen for when deciding between a floorstanding model and a good bookshelf? I am guessing the range will be limited with the bookshelf. Does a good sub compensate for this?

Still very confused,

09-18-2008, 02:40 PM
I tend to like floor standers better. They present a larger sound stage and bigger sound IMO.

With Bookshelfs you'll need to buy decent speaker stands any way which will set you back $100-200.

For $600 I would consider the Onkyo 606 although at this price Marantz, Yamaha and Denon are pretty similar. I like the Onkyo's high current amplifier.

If your going to spend $1k on speakers then consider doing 3.1 for now and purchase rear speakers later when you have more money. $1K wont buy you a very good 5.1 system.
A decent sub will run $350-600.

Check out and check out their deals on Monitor Audio RS1's and PSB speakers. Also consider NHT Classic 2's. For a reasonbly price sub to fit your budget consider the Mirage/Energy S8 sub.

09-19-2008, 07:42 PM
Yes I agree with Blackraven. Listen to his recommendations. Sounds like you're looking in Best Buy and CC stores because those are the brands they sell. If at all possible, ugh, stay away from them. There has to be a higher end private audio store somewhere in central CA. B&W, NHT, PSB, Outlaw, Marantz, NAD. Those are the brands to go with at the budget end of high end audio. The B&W 685 bookshelf speakers are highly advanced for their price. It's a new line from B&W and they sound superb. For floorstanders, the B&W 683's are excellent. That's my goal someday to up to them. All the best.

09-20-2008, 07:01 AM
You can get an outstanding 5.1 set of speakers for $1000.
SVS makes one of the best subwoofers on the planet, and everyone loves their speakers too.
If you'd rather build up a more expensive system, you can start with a pair of these:
and build from there. :)

09-20-2008, 06:06 PM
Thanks everyone for the replies! If I didn't make myself clear, I am looking to buy the fronts first and then upgrade from there. Is that a bad idea??

After the recurring mention of B&W I'm interested in checking them out, but there are no dealers within a 2 hour drive from here... I'll see if a trip to San Fran or San Diego might be in the cards. I've also been reading that different receivers will sound different through different speakers. Why is this and do the same recommendations of Denon, Yamaha, Marantz apply for B&W or Paradigm??

I really appreciate the responses and help!


09-20-2008, 11:47 PM
I think that Marantz would be a good fit with B&W's. Marantz products sem to have a slightly warm sound.

Yes, buy the fronts now and upgrade later. If you want a warmer sound, stay away from Klipsch. Nobody ever accused them of being warm and any receiver you buy in that price range will not warm them up.

NHT's have a warmer sound and B&W's are more neutral to bright. Both are excellent choices. Paradigms tend to be on the brighter side as well.

10-09-2008, 03:36 PM
Hey Guys,

Thanks for the responses. I found myself on a trip to San Diego and while I was there visited a couple of high end audio stores. I auditioned All three floorstanders from Paradigm's Monitor line (7,9,11), the B&W 683s, and Monitor Audio's RS6. I found it really tough to distinguish between them all - they all sounded awesome. The Paradigms were played through Yamaha Equip. the B&W through NAD and the Monitor Audio through Arcam. I was really pleased with the store (Sound Company in San Diego, awesome guys who are full of knowledge and didn't pressure at all). The Sound Company gave me a CD with several different styles of music (I didn't plan on going and didn't bring any CDs with me) and suggested I listen to the same stuff on different equipment.

When I continue my listening, how should I try to distinguish between the different brands? I know all of the speakers I was listening to were of quality caliber, and they all had a nice sound stage. What are some tricks you professionals use when you audition speakers?

Thanks in advance for the help,

10-09-2008, 11:40 PM
Here are some alternative opinions.

The comments that different receivers in the same class sound better with some speakers than others is mostly a fallacy The only factor that would cause this is that a particular receiver might have a rolled off high frequency response, high distortion or be driven into clipping (hard distortion). The other reason is simply the differences in the pre/pro settings and room acoustics. The idea that one can listen to different receivers and speakers in many different rooms and make that kind of a determination is dilusional. These kind of comments don't hold up to objective scrutiny but do feed the egos of those who feel they have golden ears (wow, he must really be an expert if he knows what receivers go best, sound wise, with which speakers). Try to audtion all receivers in the "pure direct" mode in which all sound setting are turned off. All decent quality receivers have a very flat response and sound nearly identical unless overdriven. Wow, the above comments should bring some incoming.

Besides the obvious such as the source, the sound difference is in the speakers and their placement in the room (room acoustics play a much larger part in the difference in sound than any minute differences in the sound of similar priced receivers, cables or speaker wire). You will hear this pitch about how different many receivers sound usually at higher end shops that carry brands like Rotel and Marantz which are very fine products but no better than the more widely distributed brands like Denon, Yamaha, Pioneer and Onkyo, etc.

I suggest, since you state that you will upgrade to a HT system in the future, that you look hard at the Onkyo line for the best bang for the buck. They have an excellent amps for the money in the $600-$1000 list range.

If you are not an experienced person in audio (and know what to listen for) then listening before you buy is a risk as all speakers sound very different in different rooms and even at different locations in the same room. Where you place the speakers in your room and the acoustical characteristics of the room are extremely important. A speaker that sounds great in a listening room might sound not so great in your home and visa versa. In a listening room one can get a general opinion about sound quality and especially the midrange but be sure you don't make a final decision until they are placed and set-up properly in your own room. The bass is especially hard to evaluate at a dealers.

I would place a lot of emphasis on pro reviews. Go to the manufacturers website and read all reviews linked on the model you are considering as well as the models just below and above that model. You will learn a lot. Usually I find these reviews quite accurate. Also enter in your search window the exact brand name and model number followed by the word "review." You will usually get lots of info on both pro and user reviews......It is extremely important to have all five speakers from the same brand and series so that they have the same exact tweeter for the smoothest surround sound.

The SVS 5.1 system listed above is a great buy. The B&W, Montor Audio, Paradigm, NHT are all excellent brands. I own 5 Axiom Audio speakers which are online/direct and a great value and ship free to the US. See their review links.

You need a sub so I would not go with a large floorstanding speaker as the sub will usually handle all the frequencies from about 80Hz and below. A small tower or medium to large bookshelf speaker will be fine since you are on a farily tight budget. For a sub look online/direct at SVS, HSU, Outlaw Audio and AV123 for great sub at terrific prices.

RR6 :thumbsup:

10-10-2008, 02:16 PM
Good Advice RR!

When auditioning speakers try to listen to them on with an amps that have similar wpc otherwise it wont matter too much as RR said. Also, try and listen to them with the same brand of CD player if possible.

When auditioning speakers, dont be in a hurry. Sit down relax and take time to listen to the sound. Bring CD's of the music you like to listen too. I usually bring some thing that has good bass to get an idea if the speaker puts out nice clean non boomy bass. I also bring music that has good treble to see if the speaker can reproduce nice clean highs that is non fatiguing. I also bring some vocal and piano music to listen for clarity and edginess. I also like to listen to some music that has a lot going on like jazz with a lot of instrumentals to see the speakers resolution and detail and I try to pick out the various instruments and make sure the music isn't muddy. Try to listen to the same music on all the speakers listen too.

I tend to like floor standers for music since they present a larger sound stage. I listened to B&W 685's with a sub and 683's and 684's floor standers with out a sub. While bass was deeper with the sub the sound was fuller and larger with the floor standers.

If your main focus is HT and not 2ch audio then Bookshelfs are fine. But if you like 2ch audio and can afford the floor standers go with them.

With that being said, there are instances were good bookshelfs sound better than floor standers.

Also, keep in mind that you will have to spend another $100-250 for decent speaker stands just for 1 pair of speakers.

If you havent listened to the NHT Classic Three book shelfs you should give them a listen. They sound like a much larger speaker and are 3 ways. They have a nice warm sound and to my ear sound better than the B&W 685's and Paradigm monitors. One thing about the NHT's are that they will never sound fatiguing. Also give the the NHT 4's a try.

If you liked the sound of the monitor audio RS6's check out the price of those and the RS8's at

Good Luck.

Doc Sage
10-10-2008, 04:58 PM
"Besides the obvious such as the source, the sound difference is in the speakers and their placement in the room (room acoustics play a much larger part in the difference in sound than any minute differences in the sound of similar priced receivers, cables or speaker wire). You will hear this pitch about how different many receivers sound usually at higher end shops that carry brands like Rotel and Marantz which are very fine products but no better than the more widely distributed brands like Denon, Yamaha, Pioneer and Onkyo, etc. "

The highlighted area is very important. A system that sound great in one room can sound just so-so in another. Room placement will play a great roll in the enjoyment of your music.

Also, sound differences in electronics are much smaller than in speakers. Find a speaker system that you truly like then find the electronics that will complement them.

Your original budget looks right. You got to spend a greater percentage of your funds toward the speakers.

Finally, bring your own music, the stuff you listen to all the time. Some speakers are great with certain types of music and not so great with others.

Enjoy the search,
Doc Sage