Best speakers in the $400 Range?

serbiaNem

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I saved up some money for a nice set of futureproof (hopefully) speakers. I was looking at the Creative Gigaworks s750's because I like the 7.1 setups (being futureproof and all).

I'm building a new computer soon and will be gaming, watching movies, and listening to music. I wan't a speaker system that will make my media shine. I might wait to build the computer when the X-Fi card comes out though.

Are the s750's a good bargain or is there some home theatre setup that is better for the money? Take into consideration that they need to last a few years and will spend most of their time in a single person dorm room.

Any information appreciated.
 

compslckr

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why not buy a receiver and as many speakers as you can afford with the money left over. then you can always upgrade later.

that is what i love about having a receiver is the limitless upgrade possibilities.

I bought a denon for about $150 and i love everything about it. right now i am just running two polk audio R-15's, 2 R-30's and the sub from an old set of logitech z-560's and the sound is awesome for music, games and DVD's. I might add a center channel later this summer, but i am not sure yet
 

serbiaNem

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It seems like a THX reciever would be a little too pricey. I looked at some denons and the cheapest one was 224 for a 6.1 setup.
 

ccotenj

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there's no such thing as "future proof" speakers...

why? because you'll like the 400 dollars set for awhile (cuz it's new, and you don't have anything like it now)... then you'll get used to it, and you'll hear someone else 1000 dollar speakers and say "i gotta have me a set of those"....

then you'll love those, and then you'll get used to them, and you'll hear someone's 2000 dollar set of speakers and say "i gotta have me a set of those"...

repeat... repeat... repeat.... :)

same goes for future proofing the rest of the hardware too... (sorry compslckr, you aren't future proofed any more than buying speakers first :) )....

imo (and only imo) 7.1 speaker setups are basically a waste of money for a pc setup... see the faq's and find the suggested starting positioning layout for an idea of why... you HAVE to have the proper positioning in order to make it "work"... and the only real way to properly position 7.1 speakers is to commit an entire room to them... you music will "not" sound good if your stuff isn't correctly positioned... it will sound like crap... your games will not "sound" right if they aren't correctly positioned...

frankly, imo (and only imo) 5.1 speaker setups are basically a waste of money for a pc setup... again, it's a positioning issue... it's very hard to have speakers surrounding a "normal setup" pc correctly positioned... if you are willing to commit the space in your room and the time to position them correctly, then they are worth it... but only then... i've seen some truly awesome htpc setups... but they didn't come out of a box, and MUCH time and effort went into speaker setup and equalization... i TRIED setting up a set of 5.1 speakers (logitech z5300e's) around my pc... i tried HARD... but i couldn't make it "work"... everything localized... couldn't get them equalized... ugh... oh they were loud... but they weren't "good"... nowhere near "good"...

if you have 400 dollars to spend, what i would do is buy a pair of "good" bookshelf speakers (a used set of b&w dm600s3's comes to mind, only because i have a pair for sale, but there's a bunch of others that will fall into that category, go scout your local hi-end hi-fi shops), and maybe that dayton sub that you can get for around 125 at parts express (or something along those lines)... scrounge up a receiver somewhere that you can use for the time being... you can probably find a used functional receiver somewhere for 25 bucks or so... push your budget a bit and find some stands for the speakers if you want, or wall mount them...

that gets you started... it will give you better sound musically than you will get out of ANY pc htib speakers, and the bookshelf speakers can be cannibalized into your surround speakers when you decide to set up your first "proper" 5.1 setup (or 7.1)...

again imo (and only imo), i would MUCH rather have a good sounding 2.1 setup than an inadequate and poorly positioned/equalized 5.1 setup... and even in the 2.1 setup there is going to be some compromises (i.e. the sub probably won't land in the spot where IT wants to go, it'll probably land where it's convenient for it to go, but that's a problem for down the road)...

all imo... but food for thought before you go rushing out to buy 7.1's....
 

serbiaNem

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I'll be living in a dorm room where I can place the speakers wherever I want. If the sub likes being in the middle of my bed, then my bed can move. If it likes being dead in the center of my floor, so be it. I had an OK 2.1 AL VS2141 setup before (my first actual speakers that didn't cost $10), and while they were great for music, I found that when playing a game, you couldn't tell the direction of the footsteps. I have a few late night Source rounds with some friends at school, and surround is a pretty big consideration.

I have every confidence that I will be able to place the speakers in a proper position. My entire dorm room as at their disposal. I'm also going to be buying a 20in widescreen for movies, it would be a shame to not have the surround effect go with my movies.

I'm also not considering used speakers. I need to make sure the speakers have longevity, I can't be sure that a previous owner didn't pump up the volume a few too many times in the past, or that they weren't dropped in transportation (a sub can get big and heavy after all). A warranty is also important.

It seems that if I go the receiver route I end up spending too much cash to add speakers later on. And make a bigger hassle with shipping and delivering. I realize that 7.1 isn't a big improvement over 5.1, but it couldn't hurt with positional game audio.

So my main concern with the home audio setup is the additional cost. Having a nice sounding 2.1 system is appealing, but not all of my criterion are evenly met.
 

compslckr

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for gaming i would highly recommend headphones (especially living in a dorm, i have the set up i mentioned above in my dorm room and i got noise complaints every night i played games after 10pm or so even when it wasn't that loud)


a good set of headphones will be your best bet for gaming in my opinion. I have a pair of sennheiser hd-202's which are pretty low end when it comes to decent headphones and i love them. i also own the hd-497's, but i don't enjoy their sound as much as i like the 202's.

I still think a receiver and a pair of bookshelf speakers would be a great starting point for your audio endeavor. the dayton sub that was mentioned above can be found here http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?&DID=7&Partnumber=300-632
 

serbiaNem

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How would that 100w dayton sub compare to the 200w s750 sub? I realize it has a 10" driver as opposed to the 8" of the s750. Will the sound quality be noticably better or similar?

And I hate to hijack my own thread, but what are the best headphones for around $60?
 

GodsMadClown

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You want a cheap surround set? ok...

ACOUSTIC RESEARCH HC6 Home Theater Speaker System
http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=2455237

$340.98 shipped.

http://www.hometheatersound.com/equipment/acousticresearch_hc6.htm


http://shoponkyo.com/detail.cfm?productid=TX-SR302&modelid=39&group_id=1&detail=1&ext_war=1

$119 after joining http://www.clubonkyo.com/.


p.s. I have to agree with ccotenj that you would be better served by going 2.1, or even 2.0 and upgrading as you go. Quality audio gear can give years, even decades of good performance. You shouldn't dismiss buying used speakers or receivers too quickly, especially at this budget level.
 

BO(V)BZ

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serbiaNem said:
How would that 100w dayton sub compare to the 200w s750 sub? I realize it has a 10" driver as opposed to the 8" of the s750. Will the sound quality be noticably better or similar?

And I hate to hijack my own thread, but what are the best headphones for around $60?

Don't pay any attention to the wattage numbers that any of the PC mfgrs spout when the discuss their own hardware. Most of them are outright lies, and thus cannot be compared to the wattages of [most] real pieces of audio gear.

That Dayton sub will kick the shit out of the sub on any PC based system.
 

GodsMadClown

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I just got an email from PartsExpress.com saying that orders over $99 will ship free from Friday 5p - Tuesday 9a. Now may be a good time to buy that subwoofer if it ships free. I havn't seen details of any possible exclusions, but it'll probably apply.
 

serbiaNem

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I just order the Audio Technica ATH-A900 headphones from audiocubes. I thought I would get a nice set of headphones now and see how they compare to my $25 Sonys (maybe a little overkill, but what the hell, you only live once). Are the ATH-A900s good for listening to an iPod with? I'm going to be spending a lot of time on a plane soon, so that is a concern.I still have the same budget for the speakers.

I really like the idea of the receiver with the Dayton sub. However, how much does a good quality receiver go for that would eventually support 7 satellites? Also, what are some high quality satellites to start with?

And finally, would the sound quality difference really be worth the price premium? I figure the sub will end up being 150, the receiver 150, each satellite 60-70(more?). That could end up being 440 for a 2.1 system. Will this system really outperform the s750 in movies, music, and games enough to justify the cost?

I sure do like that sub...

P.S. Is there any inexpensive amp that would suit the A900s well for static use? Not something costing $100, just a noticeable improvement in sound quality.
 

GodsMadClown

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It will sure be quite a bit more "futureproof", in that the upgradability is better.

If you are looking at a two-channel solution, even on an intermediate basis, you might be able to get by with a used stereo receiver. I picked mine up from a local seller on Cragslist.org for $30. That frees up a considerable amount for your sats. You can always pick up a surround receiver later.

Where are you located? I like shopping with other people's money. :)

[edit]

If you like that Dayton Sub, you should get it this weekend. I've confirmed that the free shipping does apply to it.

Get some speaker wire, and take advantage of these nice prices on a subwoofer cable and component video cable while you're at it. Heck, if you are decent with a soldering iron, you can take your pick of the DIY speaker kits. The one with the most notoriety for being pressed into service as computer speakers are the Shielded BR-1 Mini Monitors. With free shipping no less.
 

serbiaNem

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I know it sounds a bit shallow and pointless. But I'm slightly attracted to the allure of surround sound, 7.1 even more so. I was considering the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 Ultra, but the 7.1 and immense power of the s750 was luming in the back of my mind. Now throw in the possibility of having a nice reciever and upgrading over time. I have also read that the Klipsch have a better sub, but that the s750 have better midrange and tweeters.

What concerns me the most is if the receiver with the home theatre setup would eventually give me better sound quality than just biting the bullet and buying an s750 or ProMedia Ultra now for less money (or even waiting for the next upgrade and see if I like the new stuff better, creative is bound to release new improved sub speakers with the X-Fi card. And maybe Klipsch will go 7.1?.. dreams). I know it would be a lot more fun to go the receiver route and create my own home theatre system, but sound quality popping up again. If I buy mediocre home theatre parts for my $400-500, will the sound be better, will I be able to tell the difference?

I don't have a lot of experience with nice sounding speakers, so I want whatever I get now to be high end and blow me away. I want to be hooked and enjoy what I have. If I get the s750s I know I won't be lusting for another set of speakers anytime soon, so unless something dramatically better pops up(can't really imagine what could arise), I wouldn't need to buy new speakers for a few years. If I go the home theatre route, I'll be spending more money over time, for equal sound quality (if not equal, feel free to correct me, I don't know the quality of the sats and receiver). I would rather buy a high quality receiver now, but that seems to stress my budget to extremes when sats come in.

I've you've gotten this far, feel free to try and knock some sense into me.
 

GodsMadClown

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serbiaNem said:
...What concerns me the most is if the receiver with the home theatre setup would eventually give me better sound quality... If I buy mediocre home theatre parts for my $400-500, will the sound be better, will I be able to tell the difference?
...
I've you've gotten this far, feel free to try and knock some sense into me.

Sure. The increased sound quality and upgradability is one reason to go with HT components. Typical computer sets can't touch them regarding quality, because they aren't in the same price range. The short answer is that yes, you will be able to tell the difference.

If you are just going to be listeing to the speakers in a typical computer situation, the quality of the receiver is really not much of an issue. $20 can get you a very fine receiver for low volume/nearfield conditions. The real priority is spending on speakers.
 

serbiaNem

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I've decided that I'm going to wait a little while before buy speakers. I go back to college in late August, and don't need a working setup immediatly. I still need to give some more thought to the theatre setup vs. computer speaker setup.

I will however start a new thread as soon as I get the A900s in with my new to highend perspective. I can't guarentee when since I'm leaving for Ireland June 4 for a 5 day vacationm, they might not arrive in time.
 

serbiaNem

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I just found the Harman Kardon HKTS-14 Home Theatre set. How would these compare in sound quality in music, movies, and games to the Dayton, Klipsch, and Creative? Are those HC6 speakers better? I also read from Cnet that the Onkyo SKS-HT240 are a good set too. How do these compare?

Also, how easy would it be to upgrade to 7.1 in the future?
 

ccotenj

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serbia, it's not "shallow and pointless" (there's nothing in audio that's pointless :) ), but...

you are putting the cart WAY before the horse on 7.1... i too am intrigued by it, and if i wanted to spend the money to do it, i could... but the fact of the matter is, i can't set it up properly in my room (14X16)... the rear speakers HAVE to be at least 2 feet behind the listening position, and the sides HAVE to be directly to the side (or VERY slightly) back of the listening position... to set that up would put me about 8 feet away from the tv (too close)... i have a properly setup 5.1 instead (and it took a LONG TIME to get stuff positioned correctly) and it works very well... something for you to consider... any "surround system" is going to sound "better" to you at first, because:

a) you want one...
b) it's "different"...

however once you listen to it a bit, you'll realize that you really don't have a surround field, you've got sound coming from 5 localized spots... it quickly becomes fatiguing... the music is hollow... etc. etc. etc.

they sell a BUNCH of surround sets to people... the vast majority of them are setup on the demo floor with the surrounds up WAY WAY WAY too loud... but people can "hear" them and they are like "WOW THAT'S AWESOME"... but in your own home, about halfway through the first movie, you realize, "it's not awesome, it's just loud"... they sell a bunch of stuff for thousands of dollars from a manufacturer with 4 letters in it's name in this way...

the sub (125) plus a good set of used monitors (275), plus an inexpensive receiver (25 bucks or so) used will give you demonstrably better sound than anything else you are considering... and although college dorm rooms are a little more permissive that say mom and dad's house, there is going to be a limit to what volume you are going to be able to put out, so "how loud will it go?" really shouldn't be that much of a consideration (although you'll find that you'll be able to play the monitors WAY louder without distortion than you'd ever be able to play any of the other speakers on your list)....

worry about "today"... to be blunt (but not mean or condescending), you aren't in the budget range yet where you should be thinking too long term (although the "good used monitors" will easily be pressed into service as surrounds when you upgrade the front speakers in a 5.1 setup)... and (warning: old fogey, been there done that coming here :) ), trust me... by next year, you'll want something else... and (trust me again), you'll manage to find the money to do it... worry about the surround receiver etc. then...

good luck. you seem to be thinking this through, which i wish i had done when i first started out in audio, i would have saved a BUNCH of money... :eek:
 

serbiaNem

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I think I've made up my mind on what to do. Since I will be in a dorm for a while, I don't really need something mindblowing. I'm either going to go to circuit city and pick up a set of Onkyo HT-s770s, or buy the gigaworks/klipsch.

In a few years when I start making exponentially more, I'll go for the build it yourself approach. Right now I just need something temporary and nice sounding.
Which is a better value? The 350 gigaworks, or the klipsch which I can get for 260?
 

GodsMadClown

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Athena is decent, but AV123.com or ascendacousics.com would be better choices if the OP is willing to go internet direct.
 

GodsMadClown

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serbiaNem said:


Yes. That's quite decent. I didn't suggest it because they were out of your $400 price range. Note that the kenwood does not have multichannel analog inputs. That means that, to get surround, you would have to use a Dolby Digital Live solution like the HDA Mystique, a Nforce2 board with soundstorm, or wait on the DTS encoding card. I vote for the Mystique, but that adds ~$100. Can you deal with dropping $600?

[edit]

Of course, you could always use the analog inputs and matrix out a stereo signal, but then what'd be the point of the surround rig?
 

GodsMadClown

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That Kenwood amp is actually pretty good. It's a new type of amp topology (Class-D) that can make a quality signal with very good efficiency, especially when dealing with a digital signal. Other Kenwood stuff is crap, yes, but this is a decent unit. AV123 wouldn't be selling it if it wasn't, believe me. MLS (the owner) is a stickler for an outstanding quality/price ratio.
 

serbiaNem

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I don't think the $600 is reasonable for me. I think I'll just take the gigaworks for a spin. My HT building days will come when I'm out of college and become more accustomed to what decent sounding speakers are (with the gigaworks), so that I can pick what I know will sound better later.

I went to an audio store this morning and listened to some Paradigms... Damn. :eek:
 

BO(V)BZ

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Stick with the Rocket Tykes. They would most definitely be worth the extra money. Every product that AV123 makes is always a good deal, and from everything I've heard, these are no exception. I haven't heard these, but I've heard about everything else the company makes, and I own a good 5000$ worth of their gear, so this isn't just empty praise =]

Also, you'll be getting a three-year warranty with EXCELLENT customer service to boot. The woofer in my surround speaker died for no reason, and they offered to replace, paid for shipping both ways, and didn't charge me a cent, without even asking a question. This was even a Bstock item that I bought. MLS, the CEO, will do what it takes to make things right.. after all, when's the last time a guy who runs a 50million dollar a year business took the time to answer your post on their forums, or puts his private cell-phone number up so anyone can talk to him?

AV123 is pretty much a sure buy in any perspective.
 

BO(V)BZ

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serbiaNem said:
I don't think the $600 is reasonable for me. I think I'll just take the gigaworks for a spin. My HT building days will come when I'm out of college and become more accustomed to what decent sounding speakers are (with the gigaworks), so that I can pick what I know will sound better later.

I went to an audio store this morning and listened to some Paradigms... Damn. :eek:

What 'digms did you listen to? The nearby audio store near me has digms, but I don't think that they have any of them hooked up, so I'm not too familiar with their sound, but I do know a bit about various models.
 

serbiaNem

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I've pretty much made up my mind for either the s780's or gigaworks. These will only be temporary and will only be in my dorm. 419 for the s780s (free shipping), is that too good a deal to pass up on since the gigaworks will be around 400 after shipping. Which to get?
 

GodsMadClown

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Dude. Honestly. I woudn't reccomend it. However, it's your money.

[edit]

I reccomend keeping an eye on your local Craigslist for a decent surround receiver with multichannel analog inputs, and getting the HC6 set. It used to retail for $899, bu since AR declared bankruptcy and was bought out, they have dropped signifigantly in price. I suspect that AR's bakruptcy status enabled them to liquidate them a a very low price.

I tend to trust the reviewers at the Soundstage network. Here's that review that I linked earlier.

You asked for our advice so I'm giving it, but as I said, it's your money.

p.s. What is your local metropolitan area? I'd be willing to poke around on your local Cragslist.
 

serbiaNem

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I'm near Newark, NJ, but I'm still unsure about getting a HT system now. I'm now leaning more on the Klipsch 5.1 Ultras and then in a few years starting from scratch with nice components(and maybe even keeping the subwoofer if it is as good as people say).

I will have a nice set of headphones, and the HT speakers might be a bit overkill for my dorm now. A nice set of Klipsch won't break the bank, and I can build a high quality 7.1 system in a few years when I can properly tell the kind of sound I like.

I view these speakers as my initial entrance into high quality sound, then later I can spend $800 for a nice HT system when I can truly appreciate all of their worth.

The 7.1, although nice, wouldn't be the end of the world not to have. Does anyone know the cheapest place to get the Promedia Ultras (500w)? I saw them for 260 with a dell coupon somewhere before...

Edit: On pricegrabber.com, there are two versions of the Ultras, a 470w and 500w. I've never heard of the 470w, but it is $60 cheaper. Is it worth it?
 

so_cal_forever

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You will see much more price/performance out of HT speakers than you ever will out of pc speakers. Considering that HT speakers could later be used for a television as well, that's like getting double for your money. Plus, you'll never even get close to the sound of those paradigms with pc speakers, but with the AR set, it's more feasable.

It's not a matter of what's cheaper, its a matter of what you'll get more of your money out of.
 

serbiaNem

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Does anyone have anything specifically negative to say about the Onkyo speakers mentioned above? Circuit city has them for 449 online now. They were 419 for a little while, then I clicked refresh a few minutes later and they went to 449 :(

Their 6.1 counterpart sounded nice at circuit city. HC6 sounds a whole lot better?

I'm so confused as to what to get...
 
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