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mitown
mitown
1/19/12 10:34 p.m.

I have read this forum for a quite a while but this is my first post. I am trying to put together my first decent home audio system. I believe I am going to buy a Harman Kardon HK 3490 receiver. What would be a good pair of speakers (either bookshelf or floor) that would go well with the receiver. I listen to a very broad range of music. My budget will be roughly $300 for the pair, but i don't have to spend that much. Thank you in advance for your replies.

fast_eddie_72
fast_eddie_72 SuperDork
1/19/12 11:04 p.m.
mitown wrote: My budget will be roughly $300 for the pair, but i don't have to spend that much.

Will this be primarily for listening to music (as opposed to home theater)?

Speakers are far and away the most important piece of the puzzle. In that price range, I'd suggest considering getting something used. You can get some very good used speakers for $300. New, it's going to be a challenge.

Personally, I'm an AR fan. If you're at all handy (uh, on this forum? Ok, we'll assume you're the least bit handy) I really believe the AR5 is the best bang for the buck speaker going. No, they don't extend quite as low as the AR3s, but damn close. But where a pair of 3s can go for over $1,000, you can pick up a nice pair of 5s in your price range. Be prepared to do some minor work. Replacing foam surrounds is easy and rewarding. If they have the original crossover capacitors, you'll likely want to replace them.

I still have my friends 5s in my living room. I did the required maintenance for him after he bought them on ebay. My main speakers are AR LST/2s that sell for pretty good money. I'm tellin' you, the 5s keep up with my LSTs just fine, thank you very much. Just fantastic speakers.

Another thought... oh, I better stop. I could do this all night. Loads of nice speakers in that price range if you go used.

(edit) Jeepers, this would have been a steal.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ADS-L810-SPEAKERS-/180790113854?pt=Speakers_Subwoofers&hash=item2a17ee363e

Finding a replacement for the damaged midrange isn't hard. I have a pair of those - they're really nice.

mitown
mitown New Reader
1/19/12 11:21 p.m.

I don't know why but I'd rather buy new. These will be primarily used for music, but i will also use them to watch Netflix on my laptop. I am not an audiophile at all, just looking for a huge step up from the cheap garage sale stuff i have now. BTW what do you guys think of the receiver that i posted above.

curtis73
curtis73 SuperDork
1/19/12 11:48 p.m.

The receiver is great. HK does some nice stuff.

I also agree with fast_eddie, the speakers are the important part, especially with 120w. Not that 120w is too little, but you'll need speakers that make the most of those watts.

If you can stomach used, pretty much any Klipsch Reference series floor speakers will do the trick. Bookshelf speakers lack the cabinet volume to make decent bass. You could add a subwoofer, but not only does that add to the cost, its hard to know how the sub and the bookshelf units will work together. You might have big gaps in the sound range. Most floor speakers will be excellently tuned to provide accurate sound across the spectrum in one unit.

JBL is a good budget choice. You won't get quite the soundstage you would with higher-end units since JBL doesn't put much research into box/face shapes, but they are built like brick houses and have really nice materials for not much money. JBL often uses hard-dome tweeters instead of silk which tends to really accentuate the high frequencies. Side by side a hard-dome tweet will sound kinda harsh next to a silk dome, but careful EQ work will make them sound great. Think of it like all-season rubber vs. race rubber. The AS tires won't give you the peak potential like the race rubber, and the race rubber will be finnicky on the street. If you can effectively EQ the hard-dome tweets, they will be like race rubber... they'll grab every turn. After years of running chainsaws and shooting guns I've lost a tiny bit of my hearing range from 15kHz up, so the extra treble that hard-domes make are pleasing to my ear... but its entirely personal taste.

Polk is another great speaker, but you'll pay a bit more. Their TSI line is nice stuff at pretty cheap prices. The TSI300 won't dig as deep for bass, but you can find them for $150-175 each which still fits in your budget.

Here is what I do... find a good Audio store. Not a best buy or Fry's... a real audio store. Go in and let an experienced tech give you the full tour of all the speakers, let your ears do the deciding. If your budget is $300, find speakers in the $500 range per pair that you like. Then go online and find them for $300 a pair.

One more suggestion. Hit craigslist and search for Bose. They don't hold their value, but they are a good all-in-one speaker package. They are wonderful systems, but not as wonderful as the retail pricetag. They are the Land Rovers of the stereo world. People pay massive money for a new Bose speaker system and then realize that they can't get squat for them on the used market. Like this.... http://austin.craigslist.org/ele/2768528083.html. That was an $800 system new and you could probably score it for $250.

Derick Freese
Derick Freese Dork
1/20/12 12:52 a.m.

In reply to curtis73:

In my opinion, $250 is still far too overpriced for any Bose cube system. It's more like the Lexus of the speaker world. People buy into the name plate just to find out that they get bested handily by speaker lower than half their price.

fast_eddie_72
fast_eddie_72 SuperDork
1/20/12 12:54 a.m.
curtis73 wrote: One more suggestion. Hit craigslist and search for Bose.

I was with you right up to there. I could write a book, but to each his own. Short version- those Bose "subwoofers" aren't subwoofers at all. They're woofers and they crossover well above the point where you can locate the sound. So you close your eyes to "see" the music and all you "see" is "there's the woofer- over there."

They also crossover too low for the tiny satellites to actually take over. There's a significant hole in the midrange. Since a lot of people like to make a smiley face on the EQ anyhow, they figured why not. But I prefer something closer to flat.

I'll stop now. Agree with everything else you said. But stay far, far away from Bose. You know what they say- no highs, no lows, must be Bose!

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 SuperDork
1/20/12 6:39 a.m.

Some good advice here already--particularly about the speakers being the most important part of the system. Don't skimp on speakers. The best amp and a clean source will still sound like E36 M3 if you're playing through lousy speakers.

You're going to get more bang for your buck going used. If you're not a critical listener, then you'll probably be happy with the offerings at Best Buy, and there's nothing wrong with that! Or you can be really GRM and build your own: http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=300-702

RossD
RossD SuperDork
1/20/12 7:16 a.m.

And here I thought it was just me that likes big floor speakers? When all of the little speakers and powered subwoofers packages came out in the late '90s early 2000s, I thought they all sounded like crap. (Center speakers sound terrible; at least the cheap ones) After reading some of the other responses here, I'm starting to understand why.

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 7:18 a.m.

Vintage Polk.

You can get a GREAT set of vintage Polks for $300.

The world's nicest set of Monitor 7s, 10s, or 11s.

You're getting into smaller SDA territory with that price range.

Also look into Paradigm. $300 should get you into a pair of Monitor 7s, and the Paradigm Monitor series are GREAT.

I like Mirage speakers as well.

Is this strictly for 2-channel listening? If so... unless you've already bought it, might want to re-think the HK Receiver. Receivers are jacks of all trades, masters of none. You could find an Adcom preamp and poweramp for $200-$300. That paired with a set of good $300 used speakers, and you're in heaven.

I run a B&K Reference 5 S2 preamp, Onkyo M5150 poweramp, and Paradigm Legend V.3 speakers. It was far cheaper than you'd expect.

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 7:24 a.m.
RossD wrote: And here I thought it was just me that likes big floor speakers? When all of the little speakers and powered subwoofers packages came out in the late '90s early 2000s, I thought they all sounded like crap. (Center speakers sound terrible; at least the cheap ones) After reading some of the other responses here, I'm starting to understand why.

Big floor speakers are the way to go.

I'm not personally a huge fan of the SDA "effect," but being in the same room as these is a pretty awesome experience:

And if i had the space, i'd have these. Delicious Infinity IRS:

Although i always have a soft spot for these after hearing them in person a few times. These are some BAAAAAADDDDDDD bitches.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
1/20/12 7:56 a.m.

With a $300 budget, definitely go used.

WA craigslist comes up with countless Polks that would probably do the trick, as well as these: http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ele/2807412387.html

mtn
mtn SuperDork
1/20/12 7:58 a.m.
RossD wrote: And here I thought it was just me that likes big floor speakers? When all of the little speakers and powered subwoofers packages came out in the late '90s early 2000s, I thought they all sounded like crap. (Center speakers sound terrible; at least the cheap ones) After reading some of the other responses here, I'm starting to understand why.

Nope, I'm with you. Bookshelf speakers are for small rooms and rear channels. I want a big ass pair of Magnepans, or maybe Thiels. Wouldn't say no to B&W Nautilus either. Or Martin Logans...

N Sperlo
N Sperlo SuperDork
1/20/12 8:05 a.m.

For proper sound remember to make sure the ohms are compatible. Thats all i have to add besides the fact that I got all my shelf speakers for free.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 SuperDork
1/20/12 8:15 a.m.
N Sperlo wrote: For proper sound remember to make sure the ohms are compatible....

You mean like this?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
1/20/12 8:49 a.m.
92CelicaHalfTrac wrote: Also look into Paradigm. $300 should get you into a pair of Monitor 7s, and the Paradigm Monitor series are GREAT. I like Mirage speakers as well.

+1

Both Paradigm and Mirage offer tremendous bang for the buck.

Audio equipment is like fine wine, or cars. You can never afford what you really want, so you buy the best you can justify spending the $$ for.

scardeal
scardeal HalfDork
1/20/12 8:51 a.m.

Over Christmas there was a great deal on Newegg for some Polk Monitor70s. Went in with in-law siblings for my father-in-law. It was something like $100 each, new. I have Polk TSI300s. I like both, but I might give the nod to the Monitors.

Of course, I'm sure those don't hold a candle to some of the higher end speakers, but they were a huge improvement over the cheapo bookshelves I had before. Most lower-end bookshelves just don't have the low/midrange response that a decent set of floorstanding speakers do.

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 8:54 a.m.
Joe Gearin wrote:
92CelicaHalfTrac wrote: Also look into Paradigm. $300 should get you into a pair of Monitor 7s, and the Paradigm Monitor series are GREAT. I like Mirage speakers as well.

+1

Both Paradigm and Mirage offer tremendous bang for the buck.

Audio equipment is like fine wine, or cars. You can never afford what you really want, so you buy the best you can justify spending the $$ for.

These are what i'm running now. I believe i paid $200 for the pair of them, in black. I'm of the opinion that the reviewer sandbagged them pretty badly. I've never had anyone through here that wasn't completely blown away by them. (Sometimes literally. They have no problems overpowering my entire 650sq ft space. )

http://www.audioenz.co.nz/2002/paradigm_legend.html

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 8:55 a.m.
scardeal wrote: Over Christmas there was a great deal on Newegg for some Polk Monitor70s. Went in with in-law siblings for my father-in-law. It was something like $100 each, new. I have Polk TSI300s. I like both, but I might give the nod to the Monitors. Of course, I'm sure those don't hold a candle to some of the higher end speakers, but they were a huge improvement over the cheapo bookshelves I had before. Most lower-end bookshelves just don't have the low/midrange response that a decent set of floorstanding speakers do.

The new Polk Monitors are not bad at all. If you need to buy brand new speakers and have a $300 budget, hard to go wrong there.

Ian F
Ian F SuperDork
1/20/12 8:57 a.m.

My g/f has an older (10+ years) Bose Lifestyle system. Not impressed at all.

I didn't see it mentioned, but don't forget good cables. The best speakers and amp in the world will still sound like crap if connected with $10 speaker wire.

Many years ago, an audiophile guy told me if you can only afford one thing at a time, put your money into speakers first, then the amp. A good amp will sound like crap with crap speakers, but good speakers can make a crap amp sound better.

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 9:02 a.m.
Ian F wrote: My g/f has an older (10+ years) Bose Lifestyle system. Not impressed at all. I didn't see it mentioned, but don't forget good cables. The best speakers and amp in the world will still sound like crap if connected with $10 speaker wire. Many years ago, an audiophile guy told me if you can only afford one thing at a time, put your money into speakers first, then the amp. A good amp will sound like crap with crap speakers, but good speakers can make a crap amp sound better.

I gotta be honest... i go the other way with this.

Or maybe it's because some speakers that are generally regarded as "crap" are typically just driven on receivers, which as a rule, give out "crap" power.

As always... since this entire hobby is completely subjective, there's always exceptions, YMMV.

However.... BIG +1 on the cables. You don't have to spend a fortune, but 18awg Rat Shack bullE36 M3 need not apply.

PartsExpress often has good deals on decent speaker cables, and for Interconnects, i like Audioquest Sidewinders if you're on a budget.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
1/20/12 9:23 a.m.
92CelicaHalfTrac wrote:
Ian F wrote: I didn't see it mentioned, but don't forget good cables. The best speakers and amp in the world will still sound like crap if connected with $10 speaker wire.

However.... BIG +1 on the cables. You don't have to spend a fortune, but 18awg Rat Shack bullE36 M3 need not apply.

Respectfully disagree. Do a google search on "Monster Wire vs. Coat Hanger".

I ran this test myself on two systems using a high quality speaker wire, and a cut up extension chord. The first system I didn't expect to tell a difference, and couldn't. This was an old pair of Klipsch giant floor standing speakers hooked up to a cheap Sony receiver.
The second system, I did expect to hear something. This was a high quality system--Amber electronics preamp, Audionics of Oregon (now known as Rockford Fosgate) amp, and Thiel speakers. I couldn't hear a difference. My brother couldn't hear a difference (and he has relative perfect pitch). My dad couldn't hear a difference.

scardeal
scardeal HalfDork
1/20/12 9:30 a.m.

Out of curiosity, might the higher quality cables be less affected by electromagnetic interference? Or, perchance, might the difference be mainly in the connection points between the cables and the amp/speaker?

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 9:36 a.m.
mtn wrote:
92CelicaHalfTrac wrote:
Ian F wrote: I didn't see it mentioned, but don't forget good cables. The best speakers and amp in the world will still sound like crap if connected with $10 speaker wire.

However.... BIG +1 on the cables. You don't have to spend a fortune, but 18awg Rat Shack bullE36 M3 need not apply.

Respectfully disagree. Do a google search on "Monster Wire vs. Coat Hanger".

I ran this test myself on two systems using a high quality speaker wire, and a cut up extension chord. The first system I didn't expect to tell a difference, and couldn't. This was an old pair of Klipsch giant floor standing speakers hooked up to a cheap Sony receiver.
The second system, I did expect to hear something. This was a high quality system--Amber electronics preamp, Audionics of Oregon (now known as Rockford Fosgate) amp, and Thiel speakers. I couldn't hear a difference. My brother couldn't hear a difference (and he has relative perfect pitch). My dad couldn't hear a difference.

Speaker wire isn't much audible difference to me, either... it's more a matter of the thicker stuff holding up better, better terminals, etc etc etc. I didn't build an expensive 2-channel system just to use bare wire terminals stuffed with 18awg lamp cord.

That said, Monster Cables are garbage in the first place.

I find a much bigger difference in interconnects. I can pick them blindfolded each and every time, and so can my tone-deaf SWMBO. Different systems react differently, depends how "used to" your system you are, etc etc etc.

As you said, i mean all that as respectfully as possible. If you don't hear a difference, that's perfectly fine. It's your hobby, you do what you like, and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I was on a big audio forum for quite some time before i got sick of all the "cable debates." If someone wants to spend $2000 on a pair of cables even if it's "because they look pretty?" More power to 'em, go for it!

92CelicaHalfTrac
92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/20/12 9:41 a.m.
scardeal wrote: Out of curiosity, might the higher quality cables be less affected by electromagnetic interference? Or, perchance, might the difference be mainly in the connection points between the cables and the amp/speaker?

I'm going with both being the main reasons for speaker cable "upgrades."

I'm a middle-ground kind of guy. There's people on the internet that are rabid against casting out the demons that are "cable snake oils," and there's the opposite that claim there's a huge difference between long strand, solid core, or short strand copper cables.

I think there's a middle ground. I don't believe there's huge differences in sound of copper speaker wires as long as the "purity" is pretty similar. The differences might come from how they were assembled, how good the terminations are, how well the shielding works, and such like that.

Interconnects get a bit more complicated, as you can buy copper, silver, or hybrids of both. These metals DO have different conductive properties, and i know for a fact that NOTHING sounds worse to me in my system than a silver cable.

I tried replacing every last one of my interconnects with silver cables once. I TRULY thought i had berkeleyed something up bad. Most bizarre experience ever. After spending hours testing everything to make sure it was hooked up right, and i hadn't blown anything, (i hadn't) i couldn't switch back to my bargain basement used Sidewinders.

All that said.... personally, for my budget, and cost vs. performance, i see no reason whatsoever to buy the ridiculously expensive MIT cables with the "magic box" just as an example. There's some insanely expensive RCAs out there. I won't buy them.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim SuperDork
1/20/12 10:05 a.m.

Another vote for going used, especially with speakers. Just make sure you go over them carefully before buying.

I put my whole system together from used components and reckon I saved probably 60%-70% compared to going new. Not that I can recommend any brands over here as all the components are from small UK manufacturers and likely to be stupidly expensive over here.

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