Help me spend my sister's money [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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01-20-2005, 12:33 PM
I'm in the process of selecting speakers and a receiver for my sister and her family. She's currently got a consumer-grade ("Best Buy/Circuit City") Sony receiver, 2 Sony stand-mounts for fronts and 2 small cube (KLH?) speakers for surrounds. There is currently no center channel. She will be in receipt of a new HSU VTF-2 subwoofer tomorrow.

I initially thought the new Magnepan MMGW and MMGC combination would be nice. They're certainly attractive, priced nicely and are unobtrusive. Negatives about them seem to be somewhat flimsy construction and the their natural frequency limitations which DEMAND that a subwoofer be employed. Also, one of the biggest negatives is the "sweet spot" problem, where you have to be ideally positioned in the soundfield to get the best out of them.

I'd like to get her some nice floorstanders for fronts and some nice unobtrusive surrounds to hang on her walls. A matching center is also in the plans.

Currently I'm leaning to the DIYs because of their outstanding bang for the buck. The EFE-modified BIC center would be the choice there. Aesthetically, the cabinets provided by Madisound look nicer than the ones previously available from SpeakerCity because of the rounded corners. Still, hanging them on the back/side walls would look somewhat atrocious and they're not available in white.

I'm wondering how a hybrid system might work. The DIY/BIC combination in front and a set of MMGWs doing rear duty. Any opinions or other suggestions? I don't think the difference in voicing is all that critical for movies, but for multi-channel music (DTS, SACD, etc.) it would be significant.

For power, I'd like to get her away from receivers into separates. I'm not too sure what's hot in the preamp/controller world right now, but it'd be nice to get a good quality one with 5.1 inputs and just the essentials in decoders (DTS, Dolby Digital, bass management).

For amplification, a nice 5-channel amp around 100w/ch would be sufficient. I would prefer everything to be solid-state. No tube equipment.

I've even toyed with the idea of decent receivers, but would rather avoid them. The Cambridge Azur 540r or one from the Onkyo line are tops on the list. Yamaha is also a good consideration, but I'd like some recommendations on their models. They seem to have too many. I don't like the compromises of receivers, but the cost factor is attractive. A good amp/controller combination is more than double the price.

Budget for speakers and receiver/amp is hovering around $2500.
So far, this combination has my persuasion: DIY fronts: $390 (including double shipping, as once they're assembled at my house, I would ship them to my sister)
BIC center: $175 DIY rears $390
Cambridge Audio receiver: $650
Total $1605

With almost $900 of headroom in the budget, how would YOU spend my sister's money?

Also, for those who recently built the DIYs, would you recommend getting the package as-is from Madisound, or getting some parts (like the cabinet) elsewhere?

There are a lot of questions in this post. It's not necessary to address each point. If there's ONE area in which you think could be improved greatly, then let me know about it.

01-21-2005, 06:50 PM
You mention that you need information on which Yamaha receivers to look at. I would suggest the HTR-5760 ( and the HTR-5790 ( These two receivers are equivalent to the RX-V650 and the RX-V1400 in Yamaha's RX-V line. However, the HTR line of receivers can be purchased from a Yamaha authorized internet retailer ( with a full warranty where as the RX-V line must be purchased from a local specialty retailer. Because there is more competition, you can usually get a better deal on the receivers in the HTR line.

In Onkyo receivers, I would recommend the TX-SR702 if you can get it for a good price from an Onkyo authorized internet dealer ( You can sometimes get great deals on manufacturer reconditioned Onkyo receivers with factory warranty from these dealers. For example, eCost ( was offering reconditioned TX-SR702 receivers for less than $400 until recently.

I have some thoughts on speakers as well. For my own systems at home, I am willing to use home built and sometimes mismatched speakers. When spending someone else's money, however, I would prefer to go with prebuilt speakers so that there is a manufacturer or dealer (other than me) to go back to if there are any problems. If I were putting together a home theater system for my own sister, I would be looking for speakers that not only sound good but look good individually and as a matched set.

These thoughts led me to the following speaker recommendation: the Onix Rocket HT Package #3 ( There are relevant reviews of the speakers in this package here (, here (, here ( and here (

I was originally going to recommend the Swan Diva speakers in Black Cherry (, including 6.1 towers (, a C3 center and R3 surrounds, but then I found out that The Audio Insider is currently sold out of the 6.1 BC speakers. You may be able to get the same combination in the Swan Rosewood speakers ( for $2000 or less if you can negotiate a package deal with Jon Lane. There's a review of the Swan Diva 6.1 speakers here (

Both the Onix Rocket and the Swan Diva speakers have beautiful enclosures that are made to the standards of fine furniture. Certainly better than anything I could make with my rough and ready carpentry skills.

By the way, I agree with your conclusions regarding the MMG-W speakers. I tried really hard to come up with a way to get them to work in our family room. I finally gave up when I realized that there was no way they were going to survive our kids, our kids' friends and our dog.

01-23-2005, 06:31 AM
Is anyone else having trouble with this site? I just entered a reply to this and lost everything when it did some kind of refresh. Frustrating. Everytime I try to navigate somewhere in the forums, I get a Spybot notice that some of the ads are trying to install the "Avenue A" spyware on my computer. When I tell it to block it, I have to do several refreshes to get the page displayed that I want. Very frustrating. I'm typing this in using Notepad now so I won't lose it again.

First of all, thanks for the most excellent response. I appreciate the effort you went through, providing all the links anyone could ever want. You certainly are a valuable asset to the AR community, being both informative and in going the "extra mile".

I hadn't considered the Swans before, and they're a DEFINITE consideration. We're looking at the 6.1 Super HT package WITHOUT the subwoofer. One of the most attractive things about the system is the 4.1 floorstanding surrounds. That's a nice compromise between a full multi-channel music system and smaller surrounds. The fact that they don't have to hang on walls and don't need stands is attractive. The finish is certainly very appealing, especially in rosewood. As you say "furniture grade", and that warrants the price difference if you're concerned with aesthetics. We'll see if we can work a purchase in the budget. Maybe rosewood all around, but a black cherry center would help on the cost.

I had considered the Rockets, but read some not-so-glowing reviews on them lately. I forgot where.

The DIYs were a primary consideration for bang for the buck. Using them as fronts were not a big problem. Not an exceptional pretty speaker, but okay. The BIC for a center was not a problem either. Everybody says it's huge and not very pretty, but it would be tucked away in the TV stand anyway. The problem would be with the surrounds. Certainly using speakers would be sonically excellent. Mounting them on walls or standmounting them would be less than attractive. Using a more aesthetic speaker (MMGW, e.g.) for surrounds would be prettier, but a compromise for voicing, especially multi-channel listening (SACD & DTS, e.g.).

Also under serious consideration from your recommendation is the Yamaha HTR-5760. The attractive thing about it is the YPAO, which would be a nice way for my technically-challenged sister and brother-in-law to make sure their system is optimized for surround sound listening. Right now, OneCall has it for $450 with free shipping. I still need to check some other sites for pricing and do a little more research on the unit, but there's only so much time!

Thanks again, and keep those ideas coming!

01-23-2005, 06:54 AM
You're welcome. Detailed information on the 4.1 is a bit hard to find on the Swan website, so I will provide a link to it here (