Looking to rebuild audio system, seeking advice

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs & Equipment' started by PhaseNoise, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Figured I'd go here first for input - my favorite site has folks with tons of knowledge on every subject. Including this!

    I have been dealing with a stupid soundbar and (intermittently irritating) wireless sub which aren't stellar for a few years. I finally convinced The Other Half that we need to upgrade to a real system, and this was recently well received. The only cost is i had to buy an elliptical trainer for them, but that hurdle is crossed, so I'm in the clear now.

    My needs are:
    3.1 main speaker setup. I do have a reasonably good (if old) MK subwoofer I can reuse, so really I'm looking the 2 sides and center speakers. Prefer tower, have young children that may pull on a topheavy bookshelf-on-a-stand. They'd leave a tower alone.
    A good receiver, 5.1 capable, as I may add some sats at some point. Would like to have bluetooth. Spotify connect and airplay a bonus. I only have 3 audio inputs (all HDMI with vid). I have zero need for 7.1 or beyond.
    ~2-3k cost range is what I can swing without feeling silly or triggering a renegotiation.
    I am really fussy about sound quality. I'm a hobbyist musician with near perfect-pitch, and can easily hear cut-corners.

    Main advice I'd like is on the speakers. I'm pretty good at dealing with receiver specs, but would still love advice there too if anyone really likes something. Cost is flexible if there's bang/buck quantization. We have money, but still hate wasting it.

    Thanks for any advice folks want to toss out.
     
  2. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    A pair of Klipsch 8" towers with Atmos height channel speakers sound about right?

    Can be had without the height channels, I linked the Atmos version because adding height later is another cost and then it's a separate box (like I have) that sits on top of your left and right (and potentially rear left and rear right) speakers instead.
     
  3. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Interesting for sure. So you have a good Klipsch set and like it? I have one of their rigs for my PC and it is really solid, but wasn't sure their prowess translated to the "real" audio world. I don't know why I think that way.

    I don't know if i'm sold on the Atmos thing, but to be fair I haven't really heard any good demo of it.
     
  4. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    On Klipsch: they are music legends, and their PC and HTIB stuff doesn't compare; I point to them simply because quality for price is good. Consider them among the top consumer brands before you start really spending and move into boutique stuff.

    On Atmos: I'm not sold on it either, at least in terms of height channels. The tech is real and it works, of course, but I can't say that I've really heard a difference. Haven't really listened for one either, just wanted to get the channels in when I found height speakers on sale. And generally with respect to receivers, you'll have a hard time finding one that doesn't have Atmos capability.

    I'm recommending the Klipsch towers because they pack a lot of sound (dual 8" drivers and 6.5" height drivers) into a single package that I'd expect to be high on wife-acceptance-factor (WAF). Those are also the latest release; Klipsch did one before that is going for US$1399 shipped while supplies last, I assume.

    I'm personally running a mish-mash of Klipsch towers and surrounds, Dayton rears, small Klipsch and large Polk subs, Pioneer height up front and a Micca center off of a Pioneer receiver. It's 7.1.2 and works quite well despite the mix but it's also in an apartment with the rears and surrounds way too close and volumes limited by neighbors.
     
  5. HeadRusch

    HeadRusch [H]ard|Gawd

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    Paradigm for your 3.0, get them matched across the front (surrounds and Atmos overheads don't need to match) and buy whatever price-point suits you, and then budget maybe $500, tops, for a receiver and you're golden. You won't need a $2000+ flagship receiver to drive the setup's youre after. Enjoy the shopping, if you buy smart you won't upgrade this anytime soon :)
     
  6. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Thanks, I really appreciate the info. I was looking at some Klipsch stuff, but was unsure about it. I have no interest in spelunking into "audiophile" country where the diminishing returns are horrendous and the BS is high.
    I don't need to worry about the spouse acceptance factor. Neither one of us is dominated by aesthetics. We're both function > form. Well, to a point. If it looked like a gamer PC case, I'd get booted, but speakers look like speakers, so we're cool.
     
  7. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Holy cow, they have quite the price range, don't they!
     
  8. Brian_B

    Brian_B 2[H]4U

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    Subbed, as I hope to be in the same boat sometime soon.

    I am familiar with Klipsch gear, had a roommate that was big into them many years ago. I always found the horn a bit harsh sounding comparatively, and that is their claim to fame. A personal thing for sure, my roommate swore by them, and they were always nice speakers. They are American... so there is that. I haven't went listening anytime recently so Klipsch could have refined the sound since then.

    I went with a set of B&W Bookshelves around the same time, that was like 15 years ago. I still use them today as the mains in my HT (3.1 setup currently), and they still sound great (even though my kid decided he absolutely needed to push in the domes on the tweets... dammit), but hoping to upgrade to something similar to what PhaseNoise is looking to do for my HT setup (and bring my B&W's back to my office for music)
     
  9. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    My toddler filled my subwoofer with HotWheels cars.There's a nice opening in the front, specifically designed to attract the attention of little people. About the size of a HotWheel, turns out.
     
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  10. Brian_B

    Brian_B 2[H]4U

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    Mine got filled with dog food at one point. Fortunately it was kibble, not Alpo, and easy to clean out.
     
  11. Deimos

    Deimos Gawd

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    Personally I think Atmos is more trouble than it's worth, I still don't have working Atmos despite having a capable receiver and too many damn speakers.

    Q Acoustics have some decent and cheap floor standing speakers and matching center channels, you should check them out. I'm biased though.
     
  12. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It's really just surround sound with height speakers, what's hard about that?

    Asking honestly.
     
  13. Deimos

    Deimos Gawd

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    Well, on my Atmos reciever (basically one of the first to get support), it simply does not work due to multiple broken implementations by the likes of Microsoft, or simple non-support by google. Since I already spend a good couple of grand on gear with broken Atmos support, there is no wy I'm buying expensive BD Player for the 3 4k bluray movies I actually have that have an Atmos sound track.

    Atmos on the Xbox has no height signal information (only comes through as 7.1), Windows doesn't detect my receiver as Atmos capable and the latest Chromecast does not support Atmos apparently.
     
  14. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    For me, Atmos would not be a huge deal either way - my speakers are for music most of the time.

    But we do watch some movies here and there, and if there's not a significant cost premium to get a little more sound possibility - I am not against it. That's why I think that integrated set above is interesting. I'd spend a bit more, but not insanely so and wouldn't have to place two more things in a room which is notoriously hard for that (and why I don't have rear satellites).
     
  15. Algrim

    Algrim [H]ard|Gawd

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    IMO the Klipschorn sound is a real thing and it annoys me to no end.

    KEF makes good value and good sounding speakers though I only have limited experience with their bookshelf line. About a decade ago I listened to and really liked the B&W 704 floor standing speakers but budget got in the way. Paradigms are decent price to sound IMO but I've not heard many. I love the sound of Magnapans (I have a pair of Monsoon electrostatic computer speakers so I think I just like the liquid sound of a good electrostatic speaker). There's a Magnapan .7 that might be worth you listening to (and since you have a sub you eliminate the huge disadvantage of electrostatic speakers—anemic base response at an affordable price).
     
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  16. Brian_B

    Brian_B 2[H]4U

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    There's a KEF 5.1 set for $2k that would pair right up to a decent receiver. Might be something I look into further. Thanks for the tip.
     
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  17. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    My experience with KEF is from a friend's party. They had the Absurdo-Magic high end stuff, and it did of course sound incredible. But that kit was absolutely out of my price range, in the "would I rather have a vehicle or speaker" range.

    I'm not cheap, but hate to just go too far into areas where value/$ goes stagnant. I'm guessing the Q series is possibly their sweet spot.

    I wish I lived in a town which had showrooms and such. I'd love to do a listening test. And then being a jerk, I'd love to put the salesperson through the wringer. One of my favorite questions is simply "what is impedance?", and I say it with a puzzled look that says "help me oh wise salesperson!".
    I wait for the retarded response, then correct them, and wait for the "why did you ask me then?". I always truthfully answer, "for fun". I think this makes me a bad person, but hey, you find entertainment where you can. Sometimes that's toying with salesdroids ill-suited to the task.
     
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  18. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Wallet is itching, ears crying at the sonic sins the soundbar commits.

    KEF Q series setup or the Klipsh Atmos-pairs, or keep digging all over... I'm fretting. I'm not pleasant when I fret. Ask anyone. I get my tumblies in a tangle and my hoozits in a whatsnot.

    I have had Klipsch PC speakers for eons and they are wonderful (passing the Doom 1 shotgun test, Thief (original) spatial tests), but there's so much discussion about the Klipschorn effect for the full size kit. I personally hear nothing of the sort with the powered PC stuff, but I do understand that's a completely different ballgame. I have a hard time separating "audiophile BS" from "actual discerning ears" in reviews and comments.

    GAH. I make enough money where I kinda just want to throw money at someone and say "make me happy", but the last time I did that there was a heroic misunderstanding and an actual show of force in Ensenada. That would have ended badly if I were not a huge freak of nature the size of mid-range redwoods and the shoulders of a lumberjack. But it finally paid off (in stark contrast to junior high). I digress, this is for therapy.

    I want amazing sound, don't want to spend a car's worth and keep finding wildly conflicting opinions online.

    I'm leaning KEF because I have heard others of their ilk, and they made my socks straighten. Now, those were models I'm not buying, but they show the company knows WTF they are doing.

    I wish this was building a PC, where I know what I'm doing.
     
  19. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Eff it, if KEF prices aren't eye-watering, treat your ears I say.

    :D
     
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  20. Algrim

    Algrim [H]ard|Gawd

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    My wife and I scored a Jamo C80 system (sans the matching sub; some 12" Klipsch sub was in its place) for 125 USD at an auction otherwise I'd be going through your pain right now. ;)

    If I had to choose between KEF's tweeters or the Klipschorn I'd choose KEF each and every time. With that said, everyone has their own preference of equipment and your ears may prefer the Klipsch. It's all up to what you prefer sonically and what's in your target budget.
     
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  21. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    The input from y'all is much appreciated. This is why I come here. Yeah, I said y'all. I'm even in CA. Cultural appropriation in action! Or something.

    From my experiences, I think I would have a similar thought process as you. Or y'all.
    The KEFs I heard over the years have been undeniably incredible. But most were also roughly what my spouse paid for a couple years of medical school - and that just seems nuts to little frugal me. Looking only at specs, the Q series is really not much of a step down from the crazy cost stuff.`

    It looks like I could get a really decent KEF setup with a midrange Yamaha (I really like their stuff) receiver for 3kish. I can pitch that successfully I think. Once I put on Haydn's 92nd, second movement, all concerns will be gone. If that doesn't work, we flip to Five Finger Death Punch, maybe something like Wash It All Away. And keep increasing the volume, and Wash All Concerns Away...
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019 at 11:17 PM
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  22. Archaea

    Archaea [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I recommend all identical speakers for Atmos or DTS-X audio since object based audio codecs will literally have an object, like a bird or plane, or whatever move through every speaker in your theater, and you don’t want that changing pitch/tone as it moves about your space. I recognize most people don’t care to pursue the hobby to that level. That’s fine. I’m just speaking optimal, since you are inquiring. That means no horizontal small center with different driver sizes, and no mismatched Front to surround speakers. 3, 5, 7, 11 , + whatever count of identical speakers, that’s optimal.

    That symmetry point aside, mixed packages are most common, easily implemented, and inexpensive.

    I’ve heard an SV Sound package at a meet and it was impressive for the money.
    https://www.svsound.com/pages/all-systems

    I’ve also been impressed by Emotiva gear for the prices. (NOT their buggy receivers). They have a stand at Axpona where they put on a good show with all Emotiva gear top to bottom and it sounds great and falls within your budget.
    https://emotiva.com/collections/loudspeakers

    If money was less object than I’d advise you check out Seaton Sound or JTR Speakers for a high quality pro audio type speaker, that’s just about as good as it gets in my experience, but to put together a system of those items it’ll put you well over budget. They are amazing systems though!

    Salk is another forum favorite for a good sound and a pretty cabinet if you are willing to pay extra for quality cabinet work and prefer more audiophile territory than pro audio. (Not my bent, but plenty of people do). This one was a standout at an audiophile meet/g2g I attended a few years back in Wisconsin. It sounds very sweet and accurate.
    http://www.salksound.com/model.php?model=Veracity HT2-TL

    I’m not a huge fan of Klipsch, until you get to their pro Cinema line. Not even their top shelf Palladium. They use surprisingly inexpensive drivers. They are are inexpensive and look nice — that’s the biggest plus. Sound is just okay. Tweeters are cheap and bright. But from big box stores they are an acceptable/good choice.

    I personally prefer competent pro audio gear over big box brand stuff or audiophile stuff. Pro audio puts the money where it counts. In the drivers, crossovers, and performance — not in the looks (expensive wood or veneer/gloss finishes/fancy chrome etc)

    I dove pretty deep into the home theater hobby and it’s a fun hobby to partake. This is my home theater room thread. I use 13 JBL Pro CBT 70J-1 speakers, and before that I used 11 pro audio Mackie c200, and before that various mismatched gear, mostly Wharfedale, but was always in a battle trying to get speakers that matched tonally or didn’t sound like little tin boxes when I turned them up. I started in this hobby like anyone else, and learning over the last 20 + years. I make it a point to attend audio g2gs and home theater crawls all over the U.S. with some of the group meets posted on avsforum. That’s great to get exposure to a lot of gear and equipment and learn what you like or don’t. I too have a musicians background and some formal training with a good ear for pitch. Audio is important to me. I end up using my room for music more than movies. Dolby surround is fantastic for music, and the setup is fun for movies too - especially the new object based audio.

    https://www.avsforum.com/forum/15-g...rchaea-s-multi-purpose-home-theater-room.html

    DA95CAD0-BBE1-489A-B876-BF8B297B9C89.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019 at 1:51 AM
  23. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    That’s awesome!
    Someday I’d like a real setup and room, but am overrun with toddlers and have a room which is truly very poor for the task. Its wide open (open floor plan), has sun glare, vaulted ceilings (asymmetric, of course), and all manner of things working against it. That said, it opens directly to a deck overlooking the vineyards, so its not all bad. :)

    I’ll check out that thread and keep the tonal consistency angle in mind, thats a good point which has bugged me in previous setups.
     
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  24. Archmage

    Archmage 2[H]4U

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    Any thoughts on the CBT design specifically? When I think CBT, I think a large stereo pair filling a room with a coherent sound. But you have 13 of them! Impressive.
     
  25. Archaea

    Archaea [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I've had a few exposures to CBT type technology. I've liked all of them.

    There are many roads to Rome. I'm not saying this is the best single path by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a path that I like. CBT line arrays allow for a very smooth and even sound throughout the room, and with stereo listening gives you a sweet spot three miles wide.

    My first exposure would be the AVS123, LS6 and LS9.
    upload_2019-2-20_14-39-53.png
    I heard them at a few audio meets, and a buddy has a pair. They sounded great, but not enough for me to make the leap - though I did consider it seriously. Discontinued, complicated, and now expensive, and I know of a few other speakers I'd buy before I spent that same kind of money on the LS6 - namely the JTR 212HTR. (not a CBT - but man what an incredible sounding effortless speaker. the compression driver in this 212 HTR speaker (tweeter if you will) is a $700 part alone - and it's effortless and non fatiguing at every volume -- stupid capable - independently tested up to the ear splitting mid 130dB. ;pw 140dB range it's rated for. (I've heard them outside cranked (my introduction), and they can fill a outdoor park with incredible sound!) My buddy bought a pair after that demo at the park, and used them in his home theater. I got to borrow them for about a month. I loved them. If money was no object I'd own 13 of them. At $2500 a speaker, that's not happening.

    The second exposure was to a set of Selah Game Changer Line Arrays at a Heavy Hitters audio meet in PA. They stole the show for me. They were little and I smirked that they were entered in a big boys competition because they had tiny little drivers and I didn't expect much out of them. They filled the room completely - sounding the same everywhere in the room, and blew me away. It was a blind listening meet, and I had no idea what speaker was what. I was incredibly surprised I picked them over the other candidates I fully expected to chose as my favorites. Again too expensive for my tastes, but I sure liked them.
    upload_2019-2-20_14-45-1.png
    Video footage of that trip. That meet was over the top and fun. Good group of guys and audio enthusiasts. One of the guys had 16, 18" subwoofers in a small home theater space. He could literally shake your clothes in his theater space like many of us have experienced in car audio. Last I heard he had bought 64 of the same 18" subwoofers, but hadn't installed them all yet. His mainspeakers were a set of Klipsh towers. There's some footage of his place that starts my video below. The video then moves to the blind audio meet, and finally to some audiophile speakers we heard the last day that weren't too impressive to me in comparison to what we'd heard the day previous at the heavy hitters meet.



    My third experience hearing a CBT design was at Axpona 2017 when Don Keele (the main guy behind the CBT design - originally created for the US Navy for sonar use) helped introduce the Epique CBT24K speaker as an audio speaker in partnership with Parts-Express. I walked by a mammoth pile of speakers (various products they carried) with the CBT24K out front stand alone. As I walked by the display the sound was like a uniform wall, it sounded the same no matter where I walked within like an 18' range. I couldn't' tell where it sourced from. It wasn't directional and barely changed volume as you walked closer or further away? It was weird. My buddy I was with asked me if it was those Line arrays, since he spotted and recognized Don Keele, and understood the technology more than me. I told him no - it didn't sound like those little speakers could be doing that. I proceeded to walk up to the mountain of speakers and start putting my ear next the drivers trying to figure out what speaker was producing such a uniform sound regardless of where you were - were they all on I initially wondered? I came to the realization it was that little small line array pair with tiny drivers. I was blown away yet again. My buddy and I each bought a pair right there at the trade show floor. Sadly I never got around to putting mine together. Life happens - it's still unfinished. someday soon. I plan to finish them nicely (started, but stalled out) and put them in our living room.
    upload_2019-2-20_14-59-29.png
    https://www.parts-express.com/epique-cbt24k-line-array-speaker-kit-pair--301-984
    They have a big brother called the CBT36K
    https://www.parts-express.com/cbt36k-line-array-speaker-pair-kit--301-980

    ----------

    My fourth experience (actually my third experience chronologically) was the Kansas City AMC Prime.
    upload_2019-2-20_15-8-16.png
    This premium theater was setup with a full host of these JBL CBT 70j-1 speakers mated to Dolby Atmos processing. I was blown away again. It was my favorite commercial movie theater sound experience I'd had - and nothing else was close. Sound was amazing, the music as the credits rolled was utterly fantastic! My buddies and I afterwards commented on just how great the sound was. I looked up the speakers. $1200 a piece for the mainspeaker CBT 70j-1 and then another $600 a piece for the bass modules CBT 70je-1 if you want them? - as you can see in the picture they had a LOT of money in these JBL CBT speakers!
    Ugh. Too expensive, yet again, but since these were a mass production speaker I figured I might have a good chance of getting some used at some point cheaper. I set up an eBay alert for that speaker and got occasional alerts for the next ~ 3 years. Finally an auction popped up locally with 36 JBL CBT 70j-1 that a company had used for a couple 5K races - and stringed them along the race path (because of the CBT characteristic of losing SPL at half the rate per distance of a traditional speaker). The seller was about 60 miles away so I could do local pickup, and he was selling them fairly cheap. I bought 13 for about $420 each.

    upload_2019-2-20_17-19-47.png

    There's more to the story, they were damaged, there was 8 ohm sandbox resistor that had failed on 10 of the 13 making a 10dB dip at 2Khz, one of the speaker's crossover was completely fried, one of the tweeter arrays had damage and needed to be replaced, so I had a LOT of unscrewing and crossover solder work to do, but ultimately I got them all fixed with the guidance of some really smart guys on the DIY board at avsforum - measured with a calibrated omnimic as overlaying each other correctly, and finally good to go! While all were disassembled, I installed the RGB 5050 lighting strips behind the tweeter array to match the AMC Theater look I liked where I first heard them - and that's where I now sit. I think I'm finally done with speaker chasing for a LONG time.


    So I knew I liked the CBT design from several different experiences, and have confirmed it with my ownership. Your mileage may vary!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019 at 8:41 PM
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  26. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    I'm becoming fascinated with the SVS Ultra line. Those towers have a pretty great indicated passband, assuming there's no nasty pit or ripple in it. I hate when they don't supply a gain vs freq graph because 6 dB pk-pk is actually pretty huge. I know I can't afford super tight/flat tolerances, but I hate when rigs have ranges that noticeably boom or just seem to vanish.

    I have actually had other folks mention SVS as being really nice bang/$ in the past, I just forgot about them.

    Hand-wringing intensifies.
     
  27. Algrim

    Algrim [H]ard|Gawd

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    I've heard lots of good things about SVS but I've never heard them. I'll never ever buy speakers/headphones without listening to them myself:

    I was looking for a good pair of headphones to enjoy my music (no one else enjoys hearing it, unfortunately) and I had my heart set on a pair of B&W headphones; my reasoning being that I haven't heard a bad pair of B&W speakers so surely I'd like the headphones. Unfortunately, all the pairs of B&W headphones I listened to, despite positive reviews, sounded like unmitigated crap. I ended up getting a pair of Sennheisers and couldn't be happier.