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What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

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What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Old 11-19-17, 04:47 PM
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What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

So audio dummy here. Very little idea what I should be looking for, what brands are good. I need some help. I reached out for assistance here many moons ago when I purchased a new subwoofer. I ended up with the HSU VTF-2 MK 3 Subwoofer. It was one of the best purchases I ever made. All these years later, it's still rattling things all over my house. So I come here again looking for some direction.

I'm finally looking to upgrade my speakers. Currently, I have five little JBL speakers, all from one of those home theater in a box kind of things. They're probably at least 15 years old but are better than nothing, not too bad. I know that this upgrade might need to be a process, a couple of pieces at a time, but I don't even know where to start.

My living room: About 13' wide, 21' long and the ceiling reaches about 12'. But the ceiling actually is kind of a V shape, so it's not like the entire ceiling is 12'. So, by those measurements, I guess my room is about 3276 cubic feet, although because of the ceiling shape it would be less.

My receiver is an old Yamaha from pre-HDMI days, so I've currently only got optical audio to work with, but I have plans to upgrade my receiver in the next year or so to handle 4K and Atmos since I already have a 4K television and UHD player. As far as my uses go, I sometimes listen to music on it, but the vast majority of use will be for movies and TV.

I was looking at the speakers at HSU Research as a possibility but am open to other brands and ideas. Budget is flexible since I know it might need to be a piecemeal process. That being said, budget always is a concern. I'd like to get the best bang for my buck. I'd even be open to a home theater in a box type of bundle if there are some high-quality recommendation. Any ideas, brand recommendations? Ideas for places that I should start?

I appreciate any help!
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Old 11-22-17, 02:01 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

I think setting a budget is a really important first step. There are options from hundreds of dollar to thousands.

My recent living room upgrade was to the lower end using JBL Loft series speakers the 4 bookshelf speakers and a center channel cost me less than $250, I really like them. But likely on par with what you already have.

SVS makes a very nice speaker setup in addition to their subwoofers.

My favorites are Klipsch but generally speaking are a lot more money.

HSU Research as you have noted make nice speakers. Also you may want to look at AVS forums for thousands of speaker reviews.

Good speakers are a great investment and a new receiver that would allow you do to higher quality audio via HDMI would definitely be an upgrade. I put Dolby Atmos in my theater setup but there is very little Atmos material out there so I cant say I would recommend it.
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Old 11-22-17, 03:00 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

You generally can get a better bang for your buck with internet direct brands.

Some highly regarded in this category are Ascend and Chane and as cseyer said, SVS and Hsu among others.

Home Theater Direct (HTD) who I believe are located in Plano or just north of Dallas, are somewhat similar to the Chane's, albeit with cheaper looking cabinets. They have a showroom though, so if you ever get up state, you may want to check them out.

Another brand to look into would be Emotiva. They've got a new set of passive speakers made for HTs. I've been using some of their powered monitors for almost two years now and I still love 'em. Like the Chane's and the HTDs, they employ a form of ribbon tweeter. They have a high end sparkle/clarity that is seductive and amazingly not fatiguing unlike some speakers out there (some of the Klipsch's, for example which some people like myself can find quite abrasive).

Speaking of Klipsch, there is a model that they have that is getting very positive WOM and is available at B&Ms like Best Buy. I can't remember the model #, but the thing is BB usually carries several different Kplisch floor standers and only one specific model was getting this praise as being a deviation from their typically more aggressive/abrasive sound. They were reasonably priced IIRC as well.

Best bet is to check out the speaker forum on AVS and see what gets recommended there.

I have personal experience with the Ascends (several different models) and highly recommend them. Any of their offerings will be well made and high value. They are very neutral speakers though, which some people find too thin or boring. They are more about accuracy.
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Old 11-24-17, 05:16 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Thanks for all of the information. It has been very useful. There are just so many choices! This is meant to be a Christmas gift to me after I was asked by family for something bigger than I would buy on my own. The budget is $500 tops. At this point, I'm really torn between putting all that money into one really good center speaker (since pretty much all of my use will be movies and TV) or spreading it out and getting the 3.0 system from Hsu Research.

Just how important is it to have all matching brand speakers? I could see investing in the 3.0 from Hsu now and then purchasing some floor standing speakers down the line, moving the two Hsu speakers to the rear and leaving the Hsu center. It would be a big upgrade from the rear speakers I currently have, but I know most push for one brand of speakers.
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Old 11-25-17, 04:02 AM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

It's not matching brand, it's matching timbre. Usually different models from a brand will be voiced similar, but not always.

How important is it? Some people don't put any stock in it's importance. Their philosophy seems to be anything that delivers the right sounds out of the proper channel and doesn't sound fatiguing is all you need.

I have to wonder though if they have actually heard a good timbre matched set of speakers. When the speakers are all matched you have the ability to get seamless pans. When the speakers are all mismatched, you are more likely to hear the sound come out of one speaker then come out of the next and then the third (if the sound effect is panning across the front three). When it's seamless, you are less likely to be conscious of the speakers at all.

When I upgraded last year, my big want was to have the speakers completely disappear. Some people don't care. They just need clarity and to hear sound distinctly out of each channel. There's nothing wrong with that, just different priorities.

TBH $500 isn't a whole lot of money for the front three let alone 5 channels.

If it were me, I would live with mismatched speakers and just sink the whole wad into the best center channel I could find. In the future you can pick up a pair that mates well with them and then later on the rears, etc. The center is going to be the workhorse anyway.

My only advice would be- take your time. It sounds like this is a meant to be a holiday purchase but if you really want to do it right, and get the best bang for your money AND have something that satisfies you well into the future, don't buy in haste the first thing that sounds "OK". Because I guarantee you there is a speaker out there, in your budget, that will make you think angels are singing when you listen to it.
No one will know which one that is but you- and money is not really a determinant of what is best for you. You'll know it when you hear it. That's why the advice is to take your time and actually go out and listen to as many different speakers as you can. Enjoy the process of researching. Good speakers will last you decades.


BTW, I've got nothing against HSU. The first set of Ascend speakers I owned was a package deal that came with a Hsu sub. I haven't heard their speakers but I'm sure they're quality. If you already know you like their sound, definitely try their center out.
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Old 11-30-17, 11:01 AM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Originally Posted by clckworang View Post
Thanks for all of the information. It has been very useful. There are just so many choices! This is meant to be a Christmas gift to me after I was asked by family for something bigger than I would buy on my own. The budget is $500 tops. At this point, I'm really torn between putting all that money into one really good center speaker (since pretty much all of my use will be movies and TV) or spreading it out and getting the 3.0 system from Hsu Research.

Just how important is it to have all matching brand speakers? I could see investing in the 3.0 from Hsu now and then purchasing some floor standing speakers down the line, moving the two Hsu speakers to the rear and leaving the Hsu center. It would be a big upgrade from the rear speakers I currently have, but I know most push for one brand of speakers.
As already mentioned, the internet brands are the best bang for the buck. I'd vote for one really good center first, and pick up a sub or towers later. I had a $500 Kenwood HtiB back in the early 00s when they were popular, and although the sound was not bad, the sub was boomy and the speaker enclosures and workmanship looked really cheap.

If you are going to go for one speaker at a time, and want them eventually matched, go for a brand that doesn't discontinue speakers often.
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Old 11-30-17, 04:38 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Originally Posted by DthRdrX View Post
As already mentioned, the internet brands are the best bang for the buck. I'd vote for one really good center first, and pick up a sub or towers later. I had a $500 Kenwood HtiB back in the early 00s when they were popular, and although the sound was not bad, the sub was boomy and the speaker enclosures and workmanship looked really cheap.

If you are going to go for one speaker at a time, and want them eventually matched, go for a brand that doesn't discontinue speakers often.

I probably had the same one. I bought it at Sears IIRC.

Never having been an audiophile, or really even that into stereo stuff before, I was initially quite tickled with it. But within a year it had gotten painful to listen to. Not painful in a "this could sound so much better" way, but in "this is actually giving me a headache and making me grind my teeth" way. It was almost impossible to notice in just a few minutes of turning it on, but by the end of a two hour movie I was done. It was simply not pleasant.

This is another reason you want to take your time looking/listening. You sometimes need to log hours with a set before you can determine whether they are fatiguing or not. Because even fatiguing speakers can sound very impressive and appealing for just a few minutes at a time.
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Old 12-01-17, 12:26 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Originally Posted by Paul_SD View Post
I have personal experience with the Ascends (several different models) and highly recommend them. Any of their offerings will be well made and high value. They are very neutral speakers though, which some people find too thin or boring. They are more about accuracy.
I have Ascends as well for about 6 years now and they are absolutely fantastic. I won't lie, buying a complete HT set can be a little pricey, but I still think it was totally worth it.

I also agree with spending the most on a center channel if you are only going that route for now. That is what we did for the upstairs set up since we were only going with three speakers and a sub. I picked up a B&W center speaker and two Pioneer speakers with a Polk Audio sub woofer and the setup sounds pretty damn good for what it is.

Last edited by mattysemo247; 12-01-17 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 01-03-18, 01:38 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

I thought I would do a little follow-up to this thread. I ended up with the Airmotiv C2 from Emotiva. I'm really happy with it. While it is of course louder than my previous center speaker, what impressed me the most was the subtlety. The only way I can really think to describe it is to say that with my old speaker, it felt like all the sound just came at me at once whereas with this new speaker, I can pick out little distinct noises within the soundtrack. Much like when I got my subwoofer, it has given me a new appreciation for the audio element of my movie watching.

Speaking of that subwoofer, with just the introduction of this center speaker, the subwoofer already seems to be more balanced with the overall sound. It used to stand out like a sore thumb, but now it feels more of a natural blending. All this makes me extra excited for my next purchase: some floor standing speakers. I figure I'll start looking into that in the next couple of months.

Thanks again for all the help!

Last edited by clckworang; 01-03-18 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 01-03-18, 03:15 PM
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Re: What kind of home theater speakers should I be looking for?

Happy to hear that center is working out for you!

The introduction of the passive Airmotiv line was the primary reason I was motivated to upgrade my HT speakers last year (after 14 years). They arrived stateside a little too late n the year which didn't coincide with my downtime so I ended up going in a different direction.

While I'm very happy with what I ended up with, I do think that if the timing had been different, I'd be listening to the Airmotivs right now and probably be just as satisfied.
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