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PLEASE, Help me with my upgrade path!!

Old 09-10-02, 08:19 PM
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PLEASE, Help me with my upgrade path!!

Started out with Sony HTIB 5100 I believe is the model. VERY innocent indoctrination to addiction. Now I am starting to notice the "detail" in the sound that I am missing. Already upgraded my sad 13" TV to a Sony 27" Wega that I LOVE, and is more than sufficient for my viewing distance!

Setup is in my home office which is about 12x12 feet and my desk chair is in the "sweet spot". When I got the HTIB system I knew it was only the first step, and that I would upgrade components as the budget and spouse allowed. With the rest moving to another room, bit by bit.

I am now ready to make a couple of purchases. First of all with the layout of my space, I am somewhat limited to using satellites for the surrounds. In looking I found a set of POLK RM6600 for $550 at the local B&M. There was also an Infiniti set that sounded pretty nice, but the sub in the system didn't seem to pack enough "oomph" for my tastes. My question, for the most part is, would I be better of rearranging furniture and getting larger speakers for my surrounds, or are these a logical choice? I would be willing to hold off on the rears and upgrade the front of my system L,R, CC, with the rears to come later but not sure whether sacrificing the space to larger speakers is a worthwhile investment or not. Any thoughts?

Next step is a sub, this is tougher, but the Sony I have now is more sufficient than the sound coming from the sats, hences it's second place ranking in my scheme. In listening to subs at B&M yesterday I was very impressed by the Velodyne CHT8 at around $299, and was quite suprised at it's output for the size compared to many larger and more expensive models. (Size here in reference to the cone itself, not the cabinet, with the cabinet being irrelevant in the floor plan here at present.)

Perfectly satisfied with the CD/DVD changer that came with the HTIB at this point in time so it will most likely be the last thing to be upgraded.

Next will be the AMP which I know is going to be tough but I am expecting to be in the "up to" $600 range.

The whole system is pretty much limited to Digital Cable 5.1 broadcasts, and DVD viewing, since I do most of my music listening on the road where watching movies just doesn't work!! Maybe 15% music on this system!!

SO Questions are......
1. Satellites or Larger Speakers. Will I be disappointed Long Term if I go with the sats?? "Spouse acceptance factor" does not enter into this equation!!
2. Is this a "logical" upgrade path, all things considered?
3. Suggested alternates to the Sats & Sub I suggested, although both sounded SWEET to me compared to the alternatives in the price range, and compared to what I am currently experiencing, which although adequate, is not "GREAT".
4. Will my current Sony amp be able to power this stuff efficiently until I upgrade the amp?
and last but not least....
5. Will a better amp ultimately make me regret my current upgrade path when I get to that point.

Spouse suggested BOSE, but she made up for it by suggesting a BIG Screen TV for the living room, so I'm gonna keep her!!!

Thanks in advance for any help any of you may be able to offer me on this.
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Old 09-11-02, 02:59 AM
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clicker,
sounds like you are finding yourself in the same situation i did recently.
i haven't fully completed my system upgrade yet, but i finally think i know where i'm going.
i would highly recommend a set of Ascend Acoustic speakers (cbm 170s for fronts and center, with 200's or more 170s for the rear) along with a NAD reciever (either a T751 or T 761).
the speakers are smaller bookshelf sized. i haven't had much experience with those little cube-sized thingees.
as someone else said "physics still works" which means, i just have a hard time believing you can get a satisfying range of sound from tiny cubes.
i'm sure some will disagree

here's my experience for what its worth-

i started with a Kenwood HITB that i thought was just fine for the longest time (served me well for about a year and 1/2 with no real complaints).
but lately the dvds i've been watching (specifically some musicals) really sounded disappointing to me.
i had intended to just find some better speakers and keep the reciever and sub, but as i began to seriously listen and audition, i decided if i was going to lay out money, i wanted to get speakers i was going to be REALLY happy with. this kind of increased the budget a bit, and i soon realized that the kenwood reciever just wasn't going to make a good set of speakers really 'sing'.
so on top of a $1500-2000 speaker budget, i was also looking at about $600 at least for a reciever.

just within the past week, i've finally become set on a NAD reciever for $600 (for a refurb w/ 1 year warranty) to $900 (newer model w/ DPLII, etc and 2 year warranty) and a set of Ascend Acoustic speakers all around.
the speakers are not only among the least expensive i've seen (at $150 each), they are, remarkably, some of the best sounding as well-wide, deep soundstage, excellant crystal clear and precise imaging, with a transparency that leaves me slack jawed.
And i say that after listening and auditioning B&Ws, Thiels, Magneplanars, JMLabs, Paradigms, PSB, Boston, Polk Lsi's, and on and on and on...
these speakers are an amazing value.
Even more so when hooked up to a quality reciever like the NAD, which puts out a clean, clear, high current.
in my auditions i also used an Onkyo 600 and an HK 520 (which i have right now hooked up to the Front 3 Ascends) which you can pick up at any circuit city.
Both those recievers will get the job done, but believe me, there IS a difference when you go from one of those bell & whistle brand mass market recievers to something like the NAD.
i was skeptical before, but now i'm a believer.
Right now, all i have at this point are 3 of the CBM 170s ( a L, R, and one for the center) cost was $450 shipped (might be a little more now, that was the sale price). sometime in the near future i intend to order some smaller 200's for the rears, and maybe even go for the HSU VTF-2 sub which Ascend also offers and has gotten some very positive reviews, and just retire the whole Kenwood system in one fell swoop.
The cost of these speakers is far less than the ones i was considering just a few weeks ago so i'm actually going to come in under budget for a change, and that just tickles me.
the HK is going back to the store in a week or so, and i won't be deciding on which NAD i want until i read some reviews of the new unit and get back from a long road trip.

as you can probably tell from my enthusiasm, i would highly reccommend this system, especially to people with limited space.
The CBM 170's are about 1' tall by 9" deep and should be fairly easy to place.
the 200s are even smaller, which is what i need since i have very limited space in the back of the room.

if you have any questions, i'd be happy to answer them as best i can.
i'm sure you'll be getting a lot of suggestions from people reccommending the system they own and love.
there are a lot of choices out there.
this is just one suggestion.
if you truly want to be satisfied with the upgrade, take your time and investigate as much as you can-
good luck!

Last edited by ckolchak; 09-11-02 at 03:13 AM.
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Old 09-11-02, 04:23 PM
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Re: PLEASE, Help me with my upgrade path!!

Originally posted by Clicker

SO Questions are......
1. Satellites or Larger Speakers. Will I be disappointed Long Term if I go with the sats?? "Spouse acceptance factor" does not enter into this equation!!
In that price range, I think the middle ground is your best bet. Medium sized bookshelf speakers.

2. Is this a "logical" upgrade path, all things considered?
Sure. You should consider upgrading your receiver first, but nothing wrong with going speakers first.

3. Suggested alternates to the Sats & Sub I suggested, although both sounded SWEET to me compared to the alternatives in the price range, and compared to what I am currently experiencing, which although adequate, is not "GREAT".
In your price range, I recommend the PSB Alpha Series. They are an outstanding value. Here are some great deals on them:

http://www.yawaonline.com/packagespecial.html

The bottom line is that you need to audition severals brands of speakers to see which ones sound best to you. You can find local PSB dealers on their website:

http://www.psbspeakers.com

As for a sub, it doesn't need to come from the same brand as your main speakers. I also like the Velodyne CHT8, but check out the PSB Subzero while you listen to the Alpha's.


4. Will my current Sony amp be able to power this stuff efficiently until I upgrade the amp?
I'm not sure. What Sony receiver did your HTIB come with? With the size of your office, I'm leaning heavily towards yes.

One small comment on terms. What you are referring to as an amp, is actually a receiver. (an amp, pre-amp, and tuner in one)

On the subject of receivers, the Onkyo SR-600 is an excellent choice and can be found for only ~$400. In the $600 range, the Denon 2802 is hard to beat.

and last but not least....
5. Will a better amp ultimately make me regret my current upgrade path when I get to that point.
If you choose your speakers wisely, not a chance. Better electronics upstream should allow a quality set of speakers to really shine.
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Old 09-11-02, 04:48 PM
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I've been looking around lately, and have heard good things about JBL.

you can pick their NSP1 - II set which has 1 center channel and 4 sats for $250 .
People on the HTF seem to be happy with this set and then supplementing the front sats with some JBL N26 or N28 bookshelf speakers when money permits.
I like the review people are giving and plan to audition this setup soon.

You would still need a subwoofer and receiver, I don't know if your current sony receiver will cut it or not, maybe so.
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Old 09-11-02, 09:07 PM
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Originally posted by ckolchak
clicker,
sounds like you are finding yourself in the same situation i did recently.
Yep, your story sounds amazingly simialr to mine.!!
Originally posted by ckolchak

Ascend Acoustic speakers all around.
the speakers are not only among the least expensive i've seen (at $150 each), they are, remarkably, some of the best sounding as well-wide, deep soundstage, excellant crystal clear and precise imaging, with a transparency that leaves me slack jawed.
And i say that after listening and auditioning B&Ws, Thiels, Magneplanars, JMLabs, Paradigms, PSB, Boston, Polk Lsi's, and on and on and on...
these speakers are an amazing value.
I really am thinking along the same lines something good, and at $150 per right in line with the Polk's I liked best so far so will check them out!
Originally posted by ckolchak
in my auditions i also used an Onkyo 600 and an HK 520 (which i have right now hooked up to the Front 3 Ascends) which you can pick up at any circuit city.
They carry the Ascends or do you mean the Onkyo and HK both of which I have seen there!

As for the space factor, really more a problem with the rears, my 4 surround sats are currently all mounted to the ceiling leaving wall and shelf space for work related items although I would be able to place full size speakers in the front just not sure I could get the spacing right. The nice thing about the mounts I have no is the "adjustabililty" which I think has made a big difference in the enjoyment factor of my entry level system.

THANKS BIG time for the ideas, it's this kind of "brainstorming" that directs me to what I should research before taking the plunge!!
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Old 09-11-02, 09:28 PM
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Re: Re: PLEASE, Help me with my upgrade path!!

Originally posted by skar
In that price range, I think the middle ground is your best bet. Medium sized bookshelf speakers.
Sounds like 2 votes against sats, seems to be a developing trend!
Originally posted by skar
Sure. You should consider upgrading your receiver first, but nothing wrong with going speakers first.[/B]
I had considered that but decided ultimately it is the speakers that are the "Weakest Link" here. I agree about auditioning, and really have no patience for Mail Order so will check out a couple other places now that I have some input and direction!
Originally posted by skar
I'm not sure. What Sony receiver did your HTIB come with? With the size of your office, I'm leaning heavily towards yes.[/B]
It's a STR K502 and I have repeatedly read unless its Sony EX its a Sad Sony! AND you are right about my reference to AMP as opposed to Tuner so I will keep an eye on that in the future. Don't wanna sound to "newbiesque"! For me that's really the only function though! I tend to agree with you on the upstream, and I think that's my hesitance on the Polks I suggested, I don't want to be disappointed in them for at least a year or so while updgrading other components. The advantage is that ultimately what I don't use in here can be moved to the LR since even though it will be the large screen, most viewing happens right here while I'm working! The receivers you suggested are 2 of the brands I was ultimately considering!

Almost forgot to say THANKS for the input! As mentioned earlier this process is an IMMENSE help for me!

Last edited by Clicker; 09-11-02 at 09:32 PM.
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Old 09-11-02, 09:44 PM
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Originally posted by sn9ke_eyes
I've been looking around lately, and have heard good things about JBL.

you can pick their NSP1 - II set which has 1 center channel and 4 sats for $250 .
People on the HTF seem to be happy with this set and then supplementing the front sats with some JBL N26 or N28 bookshelf speakers when money permits.
Having a hard time finding a store that has a complete working sound setup. Spent a LONG time with a guy at CC which has a much better system for listening to speakers than BB but he was having a lot of "cable" problems and missing connectors. I'm not opposed to spending more, or doing the upgrade in more phases but when I limited myself to Sats this was about the best I could come up with. May have to take the advise of others and look towards something a little larger. At this point I have a feeling the Sony should be able to power satisfactorily, I just don't want to crank the thing full throttle to get a satisfactory listening level and toast the sats. I could end up with a new receiver prior to the Sub if I am that disappointed with the outcome. Just have a "gut" feeling that replacing these single drivers with something with multiples I will get a dramatic increase in performance!

I THANK you much, as well as the others for their input! Now I can't wait for some time to check out some reccomendations that will bring me 1 step closer to phase 1 of the upgrade!
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Old 09-12-02, 02:35 AM
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Clicker,
i was refering to the onkyo and HK that can be picked up at CC.
the ascends are internet-direct (www.ascendacoustics.com). since you stated you want to avoid mail-order, and that you liked Polk, i'd try to find someone that carries the Rti series.
i heard a pair of these bookshelfs, and thought they sounded better than the stuff you usually find at CC and actually prefered them to the Lsi series.
ignoring cubes for a moment, you'll find you'll get a much larger bang for the buck going with a good quality bookshelf , than by getting a floorstander for the same price.
this is assuming you mate the bookshelf with a good sub.

i really am glad i'm done.
i know what i want and its just a matter of ordering it (will be gone for a few weeks tho and the anticipation of getting back home and putting it all together is going to drive me nuts).
Frankly i didn't enjoy the process all that much, but i am so glad now that i took the time to do it right.
be patient!
look at as much stuff as you can.
its ok to concentrate on speakers, but do realize that the electronics are going to have a definite impact on the final sound quality too.

as for mail order, i think its great.
i tried two brands of speakers this way (the ascends and Onix Rockets - www.rocketloudspeakers.com ).
i thought both were excellant values, for what they were and both improved even more with better electronics.
though i ended up sending back the rockets and losing about $150 in shipping back and forth, i'm still glad i tried them out.
i would go out and listen to speakers in a store for a few hours, then come home and listen to the Rockets, and it was a great help in determining the exact qualities i was looking for in the sound.
i had a money cruch though, and as much as i loved them, had to send them back.
but it worked out for the best, because that opened the door for me to try the ascends, and they addressed some of the issues i had with the Rockets (primarily soundstage and transparency) while still providing enough impact for HT.

if you or anybody else is the least bit interested in the Ascends , i'd suggest going over to audioreview.com and searching for ascends and looking at the reviews for the cbm 170s.
that was actually what convinced me to give them a shot.
they have one of the best ratings for any product on there.

sorry if this started to sound like a sales-pitch.
i bet when you finally find the gear that really works for you, you'll be just as excited and want to spread the good word to anybody who'll listen too.
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