To answer a few questions, I’m not exactly sure what the problem with the NHt’s are, jus tthat the high’s and mid-range do not feel the same as they once did. Regardless, I have plans for them anyway, as I intent to put them in the basement when I get around to cleaning it up.
I should also add, my biggest complaint when listening to new speakers is if they are brassy- I just can’t stand that. Back in the day, I had a pair of Polk Audio RTA 15T’s that I absolutely adored bridged to two adcom amps at 4 ohms, and that was really all I ever wanted. I’m not going to go into why I no longer have them, as it is a long story. After that, I had a set of paradigm speakers I bought in the mid 90’s, and I gave them to my brother when I got the NHT’s. I also had a pair of Bose 601’s before I got the Polks, but I sold them shortly after getting them. I don’t necessarily think of myself as an audiophile, but there is a certain texture to the kind of sound I like- maybe actual audiophiles can determine what it is by just examining my speaker choices. For example, I have never been a fan of Cerwin Vegas, Klipsch have not ever interested me for whatever reason, and I am definitely not interested in overwhelming base. I remember liking but not falling in love with some Boston Acoustics speakers, but haven’t heard any in ages.
At any rate, I am going to move the adcoms and the speakers to the basement, so I need a soundbar, and it sounds like Sonos is a good option but pricier than I want to pay (unless one of you wants to drop a shitload of gold in the tip jar).
And sure, if you have a set of Magnepans or a pair of Beolab 90’s (looking at you Soros) you want to give me, great. But I think I am looking at the Sonos and down for now. Do the Sonos come with a sub?
no. $700 for the playbar, $700 for the sub.
Totally worth it.
Villago Delenda Est
John, could it be that your ears have changed?
Just a thought.
LOL. You’re ridiculous Cole.
Do you have some kind of “condition”?
@Villago Delenda Est: No. Noticed no changes in my other audio devices.
Love, love, love BAs. Had a pair for years and then another pair, and then they stopped making them in bookshelf size. Can’t stand Bose. Absolutely can’t abide that bass-uber-alles ugly mushy sound, but people swear by it.
I’d get another set of Paradigms, whether mini monitors or atoms, etc. You can add a sub if you want, but may not need to if you aren’t too much into bass. I have a Dayton 10″ sub, it does the job quite well, they have smaller versions (8″) which would also work. They are cheap (less than $100). If you dial it in right, it just adds some oomph without taking over the situation. You can buy them direct or through Amazon (Prime eligible when I bought mine).
I much prefer an amp or receiver with speakers over a soundbar, but I do understand the space/cost/convenience/wireless attraction of them. Yamaha or Pioneer seem to get the best reviews.
When has that ever stopped you?
Howard Beale IV
Perchance, Cole-when was the last time you visited an audiologist?
I would also add that anything by Dayton is going to be cheap, and far more impressive than you expect. Not the best by any means, but quite inexpensive and competent. Price is a concern for me at all times, so I try to maximize bang for the buck and not get concerned about having the best, as I know I can’t afford it.
I still think the Sonos Play:5 might be a good compromise ($500) in the heinously expensive Sonos universe. I was a little surprised to find that both Best Buy and Micro Center carry them, so you could swing by the former on one of your expeditions into town and check ’em out. (They also have the other components.)
My only hands-on experience is that I set up a Sonos Play:1 at my brother’s beach house just before Christmas. Open-plan house, exacting audiophile quality not needed. Still, I was blown away by the quality of the sound. That got me looking into the whole Sonos demimonde. Really good stuff, but expensive.
Sounds like what you want is clarity and excellent soundstage. You can snag a pair of used magnepan MMG’s on ebay for $425. A pair of used SMG’s would run you around $350. You’ll need an amplifier able to produce large amounts of current to handle the magnepans — a used Carver is inexpensive and would do the trick. Magnepans have no bottom end, so you might also want a subwoofer.
It’s dead simple to build a subwoofer yourself. You can pick up a great 12″ subwoofer for about a hundred bucks. All you need is a whopping big box and a crossover.
If you are watching by yourself mostly, go 2.1 and sit in the middle. If you watch with others, consider a 3.1 setup, but it sounds like you don’t have a 5.1 or 7.1 receiver. I use 2.1, I am pleased as punch.
If you have two Adcom amps and have space for them, it is almost criminal not to use them. I think if you take the time to compare bookshelf with amps to soundbar, you won’t hesitate to go with speakers.
ELAC and Pioneer bookshelf speakers also get good reviews and are inexpensive (Andrew Jones design on both). I am not a shill for CNET, it just appears that every audio site I visit has praised them, and I have heard the Pioneers, and they are solid. If you get a soundbar, you most likely will listen to music less and less, whereas if you get some decent speakers, probably more and more, just my prediction. When I upgraded my speakers, I found myself listening to music a lot more than I used to, quite enjoyable.
argh! Livestream of Sherlock on PBS isn’t connecting.
I had biwired Advents that I bought in high school and held onto for about thirty-five years. Once we started living in older homes with smaller rooms, they were less than….practical. Still miss them.
In reading and thinking about this and the previous sound-bar thread, I realize that I have apparently moved into the post-audiophile phase of my life. I used to have awesome, (semi-)state-of-the-art components, but now I can’t justify them and don’t even really want them. The quality of mid-range components has improved exponentially, and with judicious shopping you can get (close to) kick-ass sound quite reasonably.
Not trying to kill anyone’s buzz. Just realized that my needs have apparently simplified themselves.
That is all. Now off to watch Sherlock.
Can’t you watch it on the actual TV?
Totally agree with Stepplejack, I used to have a multi-channel setup, but “downgraded” to a quality old-school 1990s Harman Kardon stereo receiver, smaller speakers and a sub and I am much more satisfied with the sound, especially for music, which, again, I indulge in much more often just because it sounds so nice.
If John already has Adcoms, use those, otherwise get a cheap Onkyo stereo receiver or buy a used quality stereo amp. Simpler is better. Soundbars are simple, but I just don’t think they compare in terms of sound quality and soundstage.
Howard Beale IV
@Villago Delenda Est: That’s why I asked if he has visited an audiologist recently. I was forced to because my Meinere’s that was in remission decided to flare up six months ago and has annoyed me to no end. Fortunately, the vertigo attacks are very few and far between but I have to vigilant should they occur, and I don’t relish the idea of a scorched earth treatment if returnns as it may also impact what hearing I have in the affected ear.
Others have already commented fairly, so there’s a ton to choose from. Perhaps to find the right thing you have to pair the space in which you will be listening with the things you are listening to, and just experiment. You say you are no an audiophile, but you clearly have thought about what you’ve tried in the past, and what you seek. Games, movies, jazz, disco, stadium rock, what’s coming through these speakers, and what’s your budget? For $50 I replaced a couple of mid-ranges in a pair of ancient Targa’s I inherited from an older sibling, and they now produce acceptable sound for traditional jazz or Paganini at dinner and the occasional rock show while cleaning. A $250 Bose sound dock now graces the basement, with a bluetooth connection that makes it easy to connect whatever device happens to be at hand, and I’m constantly being told to please turn it down because the little thing just fucking rawks.
You also stated you do not seek overwhelming bass, but inquire “Do the Sonos come with a sub?” so it’s not clear which way you are swinging – full-blown surround or a soundbar? Those are two very different paths.
ETA @Steeplejack: As always, someone else says it better. This.
As have a smallish living room (~9½ by 12), perfectly happy with the iLIVE ITB382B bought new for about $80. May eventually spring for a separate freestanding sub-woofer (the soundbar accommodates that and automatically overrides its small built-in sub-woofer)) but after one year of heavy use really haven’t missed the bit of extra oomph (boomph?).
I really like by Definitive Tech speakers. I was able get a reasonably priced 7.1 set-up with them. Great bang for the buck.
@Steeplejack: nope, I roku
I have several Sonos 1s in the house and a Sonos 3…I think the sound quality is excellent (can’t really tell the difference between the 1 and 3 to be honest). The app and ability to stream music or radio all work well. I’m a fan…I listen to a lot more stuff now than ever before.
I don’t know about the playbar or sub, but I’ve been very happy with the 1 and 3.
Bummer. Hope you get it working.
That’s my situation 90% of the time. I moved into my current apartment three years ago and have a few things I still haven’t deployed: relevant to this discussion, a Sherwood 2.1 receiver, a Polk subwoofer and a pair of cheap Sony bookshelf speakers. At first I didn’t have a convenient place for them; then I just got used to the status quo and it wasn’t a priority to set them up. Plus I had minor concerns about noise for the surrounding apartments. But now the crappy sound from the TV is really bothering me.
And now you’ve got me thinking that it might be worth the effort to make room for the receiver and speakers and set them up. I can really see your point about listening to music more when you’ve got a nice setup. When I was at my brother’s beach house I found myself listening to music a lot more, even just SiriusXM channels, because the sound from the Sonos Play:1 was so nice. (And, admittedly, I was breaking in the speaker.) It really struck me how much I had been missing just listening to music via the (awesome) Oontz speaker connected to my notebook.
Villago Delenda Est
@John Cole: Do your other audio devices have the same range as you expect your speakers to?
High fidelity is just that. Most of the stuff that emits sound, be it music or the Klown Kar saying incredibly stupid things, is not high fidelity. So you wouldn’t notice hearing loss in the high frequencies on them.
Being around boomy things in your misspent youth in uniform, as you know, can take out your high frequency hearing, over time.
@abject funk: This sounds like a sensible approach to me.
JC seems to know what he wants to hear and has particular tastes. I doubt that a soundbar will approach the sound quality of dedicated speakers with a good amplifier. And $500-600 for a all-in-one mini speaker box sounds spendy to me (YMMV).
But if it’s just the mid and high end that’s the issue with the existing speakers, maybe simply getting a $100 equalizer is a decent thing to try first? Of course, that won’t solve the problem if the speakers will still be moved elsewhere. Maybe the cat tree and too many doggie toys are sucking up all the sound. ;-)
(Who may get an EQ as he’s never been really happy with his JBL towers + subwoofer.)
@abject funk: I would personally go with Yamaha instead of the Onkyo receivers. I recently checked out both of them, and preferred the sound quality of the Yamahas. And somehow the Onkyos seemed decontented (like – the very cheap volume knob. These are the details that Onkyo used to get right. Arrghh!)
I am pretty old school in my approach, and use the Yamaha receiver with a pair of 1990’s vintage Klipsch 3.5KG speakers. I checked out some recent Klipsch speakers at a store recently, and they just weren’t the same.
John, the speakers are FINE, it’s your CABLES!
Arcam just came out with a soundbar. Haven’t heard it yet, but I’m a fan of their house sound (we have a Solo in the family room and I have a Solo Mini in my office).
As far as recently introduced speakers are concerned, if you buy anything before hearing the ELAC Debut series, you should be institutionalized.
Losing some of your high-frequency acuity isn’t the worst thing in the world. The notorious 6k peak in the Sennheiser HD 800s doesn’t bother me at all. Didn’t have to fuck around with modifying them, and I don’t have to run out and replace them with a pair of HD 800S the day they come out.
I thought of getting the Sonos at first, but decided it was far too expensive for what it is. Both Apple and Google offer decent and not terribly expensive options for streaming wifi audio through whatever system you want. I ended up buying an integrated 40w per channel Chinese tube amp for under 400 and got some great vintage B&W speakers that pair well with the amp. I might get a sub at some point, but I get real presence and warmth from this setup with music streaming from Spotify and other digital services.
FWIW, I agree with those advocating for a “real” system rather than a soundbar. I’ve had a pair of Sonus Faber concertinas and an AE sub driven by an old carver tuner/preamp and amp for 12+ years—all bought used on Audiogon for reasonable prices—and recently replaced my shitty old turntable with a Rega RP1. All my vinyl is a revelation, and I also stream iTunes through it via an airport express.
My hearing *is* deteriorating, and yet listening to music on this system (as opposed to my mediocre computer speakers) remains totally pleasurable. I do it more now than I have in years.
J R in WV
I have always loved the sound from AR speakers.
I worked for public TV / radio back many years ago, and we used AR monitors in the control room…
Check out AR (Acoustic Research) speakers before you spend a ton of money. I was actually surprised they were still in business, as good things so often go under. My doctor checks my hearing every year at my complete physical. Much to my surprise he tells me that my hearing is past good for my age and experience.
Loud noise has been part of my life for at least 50 years…
Oops, they may not be in business any more. Sorry.
If you are going to put bookshelf speakers on stands (assuming you might go that route), consider some cheap towers like JBL ES 80, Infinity Primus, or Pioneers, they won’t take up any more space. Then you won’t need a sub unless you really want to feel the explosions, etc. in movies. For music, no sub is needed unless you are a total bass-head and listen to a lot of electronica or rap (not a bad thing, but JC doesn’t seem to be). I got my JBL ES 80s for $125 each with free shipping on Amazon, they go on sale pretty frequently, but at times they cost twice that much. They aren’t amazing, but they aren’t bad, and the (cheap) sub I have is purely for movies, which I actually don’t watch too much. Also, the sub is not usable if my upstairs neighbors are home, it just resonates through the floor too much.
Also, most cheaper speakers, whether tower or bookshelf are very efficient. You just don’t need much power to get them to ear-bleeding levels. Any receiver or amp should be able to drive them easily at 1/4 or at most 1/2 power to incredibly loud levels, regardless if it is an older amp or a newer one, chip based or “traditional” with transformers.
I have a Klipsch all-in-one system for my computer which is two small satellites and a 6″ sub, self-powered, that is, no amp needed. I must confess it can fill most rooms with a lot of sound, and would be completely fine for TV purposes, and occasional music in a room that is less than 400 sq. ft. or so, although my other system sounds (a bit) better in all respects just because it has more speakers in the towers (low, mid, tweeter) instead of the sub and small satellites.
I should mention that even my old setup of a pair of super-cheap bookshelf sony speakers on stands and a cheap sony subwoofer far exceeded any sound I have heard from any soundbar. My current listening room has a lot of open spaces, so surround wasn’t really an option, but I don’t miss it. I know modern soundbars can mimic the surround sound, but they just don’t provide the satisfaction when it comes to music, and if your space is not completely enclosed, the surround features don’t work all that well. I really don’t like music in anything other than simple two-channel stereo, but I know that a lot of people have different opinions. I just prefer to have my sound coming from in front of me, even for movies, but especially for music.
Denon makes a Heos soundbar now that comes with a sub. They were on sale last month and may still be. I have a Heos 3 that I got on sale and the software and sound are great.
Got a couple of Advents I inherited from my grandfather that I need to overhaul. (The mains are blown and worn out. I didn’t do it.) Got a pair of 3-foot Sonys I’ve owned for 30 years. Still sound fine, long after all the components that came with them crapped out. And they’re so goddamn big it doesn’t matter very much.
[‘So no help here!’]
My current Onkyo receiver has a Zone 2, which will allow for 2 speakers to be played outside the “Main Theater Area” (backyard, garage or basement) from a different source. Movie in Theater, Tunes in the backyard or Tunes in the Theater / Ballgame on AM radio in backyard. . . Cool feature.
There’s a sound bar that Vizio makes that is supposed to be pretty incredible for the price and I believe it does come with a sub. If you check io9 it often comes up in the Kinja deals section.
I bought a Sony CT-150 a few years ago when I bought my HDTV (a 55″ Sony KDL-720HX) and it sounds good to my middle aged ears. It only has 3 HDMI inputs, but that’s more than enough for the cable box, PS4 and Apple TV we use in the living room.
We also tried going with separates for a while – had a full on 7.1 setup using Hsu Research speakers and a midrange Denon AVR. The sound was great, but the wires were ugly and eventually the spouse insisted on getting rid of it. I think the sound bar was ultimately the way to go.
ETA: This is the Vizio sound bar system that they rate pretty highly – it does have a wireless sub & rears. http://www.vizio.com/audio/sb4051c0.html
I picked this up a few weeks ago. It’s pretty amazing for the price.
It’s quite possible the fuse may have blown on your tweeters. I am not familiar with your particular speaker, but before you dump dollars on new equipment, check to see if the speakers have a FUSE or CIRCUIT BREAKER on them. I have a pair of ADS towers from the mid-80s and they’re still going strong. Each has a pair of fuses, one for the tweeter and the other for the mid-range. These are the more delicate pieces so are more susceptible to damage if driven too hard. No fuses for the dual bass speakers in each. (My dad had a pair of ESS AMT speakers which had a circuit breaker for the Heil Air Motion Transformer tweeter/mid-range).
ALSO, check to ensure your speakers are IN PHASE. Having speakers where the polarity is not matched (“+” on amp leading to “+” on speaker, “-” on amp leading to “-” on speaker) will result in a muddled sound.
Speakers are pretty simple devices with few failure points. If the coil or cone fails, you’ll hear distortion. I have a pair of JBL 2-way speakers from the late 70s that I refoamed about 15 years ago due to the Annulus (or Surround of the cone) disintegrating. Generally though, a good quality speaker can last a lifetime if given the proper care.
If you do a bit of troubleshooting you may be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars from buying a new but unneeded speaker system.
A short addendum to my prior reply, given the comments following that post:
1) Matching the sonic characteristics of electronics and speakers is pivotal to the final result. Adcom electronics, when paired with certain speaker brands (i.e., Klipsch) could potentially produce bleeding ears…matched with the ‘soft’ high end of Polk speakers, the sound will be less strident/fatiguing….
2) Subwoofer matching (read: integration with satellite speakers) and placement is a notoriously difficult task – even with products offered by a common manufacturer. Achieving a ‘seamless’ blend between the two is almost an entropic enterprise;
3) I’ve listened to a number of electrostatic speakers (e.g., Acoustat, Magnepan) that, when matched to appropriate electronics, sound wonderful. However, I have a cat (and three dogs)…these speakers look (to a four-footed critter of the feline variety) like the largest, most beautiful scratching posts produced by man. The result of an interaction between the two can be most unfortunate (for the cat)….
4) Another viable alternative to your quest might well be a high-quality A/V receiver or integrated amplifier (e.g., Arcam, Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha) paired with a complementary set of speakers-of-your-choice (main(s)/center/rear(s)). In addition – while I don’t want to initiate a subjectivist vs. objectivist debate on the merits of speaker cable a la Stereo Review and Consumer Reports – a quality manufacturer such as Kimber Kable (4PR?) will provide beneficial results.
i still love my 1990-era BA CR-8s.
As a 3 unit sonos owner, the sonos sound bar is TOTALLY not worth the price. There are issues with the software but mostly that’s stupid money.
By far the best price/performance is Vizio. There’s a 42″ with wireless remote and sub that is on sale frequently. It won’t connect over wifi like the sonos, but you’ll get 5.1 surround for about 200.
Let me second the Vizio nomination, and let me second Sonos (soundbar plus subwoofer) if you’ve got the extra $. I’ve got the Sonos (temporary insanity) and I’ve heard the Vizio, and they both sound fantastic to my late-40s ears. And I would honestly toss in cash if we pass the hat around here to fund this purchase.
@Peter: Also have a set of Concertinos and a Solo for center channel. I also have a Rel sub, not loud but goes below 20hz and bass is really tight. I was lucky enough to work t an electronics store and got them for well below cost through manufacturer accomodation.
I agree with ost people here the 2.1 or 3.1 setup is the way to go.
I prefer headphones.
The Other Chuck
Go with what sounds good, and something with a good return policy in case it doesn’t sound good in your home. Even the best brands are known to cut corners nowadays, especially on the low-end offerings, and likewise there are some brands with terrible reputations that still manage to score the occasional hit.
The sound bars I’ve heard are blah compared to an amp driven set up.
Digital amps have a ridiculous amount of sound field presets for any speaker setup and listener preference.
I’ve had good luck picking up speakers on the Harman online store.
I have never posted here but if you are looking for surround sound, no sound bar can do that. They will tell you they can ‘fake’ it but they can’t. Really. And for music they are terrible; so if you ever plan to listen to music, forget a sound bar. For the money you are prepared to spend, you can get a decent stereo and decent speakers. It appears you have had great speakers/systems in the past. A sound bar will only disappoint.
This is a great site and I love the writing. Thanks for the work y’all put in. People think here.
@thebok: Glad you de-lurked. You should do that more often!
Late to this discussion, but Magnepan offers their entry MMG speaker with a sixty day trial period, direct from the factory. You will be hard pressed to find better speakers at their $600 price range. Many critics consider them the best at that price.
Also, if highs don’t sound so good, perhaps your ears need a wax cleaning. That’s something you can do yourself. Just get one of those soft rubber suction devices used to get snot out of infants’ noses, fill it with warm water, and squirt the water into your ear (with your head sideways to let the water out), as many times you need. You might be surprised what comes out.
Here’s a URL: http://www.magnepan.com/model_MMG