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Stereos

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I love music, and I've been growing increasingly disenchanted with the stereo I've had since the first year of my BA. So today a friend an I went stereo-shopping. Invariably, the salespeople steered us to some really expensive stuff. Some of it, like these $20,000 speakers from B&W (A British company, I think) finshed in Connolly Bros. leather on the top. Or these $20,000 speakers from Avantgarde Or these bargain four-figure speakers from Martin-Logan (American) were all beautiful and sounded great. But what I didn't see were any speakers for under a thousand dollars that sounded pretty good, looked decent, and had some bass, too. Any recommendations? Peace, JG PS: Please don't say Bose. I've seen 'em, I've heard 'em, I don't lile 'em.
post #2 of 11
The Martin Logan stereo (pictured above) is the best I have ever heard. My neighbor, who is a musician and researched stereos for quite some time, chose these above all other high-end stereos. It is a 'hybrid' speaker, meaning it combines electrostatics and conventional domes and cones. The center speaker of the set is below the quality of the other pieces, although that is difficult to detect when the entire system is running. Keep in mind, with the Martin Logan system you are paying a great deal for aesthetics. All things considered, the overall sound is extraordinary.        However, the stereo system at my house is made by Atlantic Technologies; a cheaper, although not cheap (total came to $3000, including a $1000 sub-woofer), alternative to the Martin Logan systems. Keeping to the under $1000 price limit (I assume you are looking for a 6 piece system), I believe the best complete system is made by JBL. It costs about $400, and is comparable to any $1000 system, in my opinion.         I must stress that everyone has his or her own particular tastes, and what you like may be different from what I like. So I stress that the only way to purchase a sound system is to hear it. When hearing it, consider your surrounding. For example, the same sound system will sound better in a "˜theater room' than on the store shelf. Also consider what sound source is being played, e.g. Dolby Digital, THX, Standard Cable Audio etc. \t        Lastly, keep in mind the quality of the audio cables play an important part in sound quality as does the A/V receiver. The most important thing to remember is: a sound system is only as good as its weakest component. [b] I hope I was of some assistance, Ari
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Keeping to the under $1000 price limit (I assume you are looking for a 6 piece system),
Ari, Thanks for the advice. However, I'm not looking for six speakers, I'm looking for two. My housemate has a six speaker system in the main room for home cinema, from a company called Monitor Audio. They don't sound that great, but they look neat, with copper-coloured cones. I'm keeping my electronics, which are a a small Denon integrated amp and tuner/CD stacker. (They were part of a mini-system, but they're still pretty good.) Any new recommendations? Peace, JG
post #4 of 11
I'm not sure what kind of music you're into, but my speakers of choice have always been JBLs designed for live use. To me, you can't get that bruce-lee-punch-in-the-chest feeling from a sub made for the home, no matter how expensive it is. Go for a dual 18" and you're ribs will be feeling it in the morning (no, i don't see why anybody would need something that big for their home, but a 15" Mackie is gonna sound way punchier than a 15" sony or KLH). the problem is, this system only really works well on rock and club/house/techno/etc. they put out way too much distortion to lend anything to jazz or classical or the ilk, as their resistance is usually pretty low, around 2 or 4 ohms. When it comes to amps, though, I think everyone should agree w/me. Ditch the all-in-one units and get a dedicated, two-channel power amp. If you must use surround, get a few of them and buy a dvd player w/outputs for each channel which will be run through a mixer (mackie is the most transparent for the best price) then out the channel sends to the power amps. If you're doing it right, though, and only listening to music in stereo, invest in a couple Grace pre's and bask in the greatness which is audio the way it was meant to be heard. As far as makes go, I've been running two Crown CE1000's, one at 4 ohms stereo for my right and left and the other bridged for my sub (yes, I've got 1,100 watts going to my sub). They're built like tanks and last forever. One other thing. Keep everything digital for as long as you can in the chain. And when you do finally convert it to analog, have it done by gear with the best D/A converters you can buy. I could go on about this, but this post is getting long.
post #5 of 11
Joe,         Consider the Axiom Speaker Company  Millennia M80 I have never heard it, although, I know it has been highly reviewed. But, for about the same price ($1000 US), you can buy the full Atlantic Technologies T75 system, and probably have better sound. What Audio Monitors speakers do you currently have? Ari
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Consider the Axiom Speaker Company   What Audio Monitors speakers do you currently have? Ari
Thanks. I'll have to see if I can hear those Axioms. They ain't pretty, but if they sound good.... My current speakers are small minimonitors by a British company called Mission. They use a 5" plastic woofer and a metal tweeter that's under the woofer. The port is divided in half by a thin plastic reed, and when listening to something with bass it can get really noisy. Another thing I've been thinking is that I need to find someone who carries Dynaudio. After all, they made the speakers Volvo put in my dearly departed S80 T6, and that stereo sounded better than most of the home speakers I've heard. OK, it wasn't quite QUAD ESL-57's on QUAD amps or Tannoy corner-speakers on McIntosh tube monoblocks, but it was still glorious.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I'm not sure what kind of music you're into, but my speakers of choice have always been JBLs designed for live use.
That's a cool idea, and I agree with you that big speakers give you a little extra something, but if I went big I'd have to do it right, and I don't have the space in my room for big Tannoy corner speakers. Also, considering that a Japanese diplomat offered Abu something like ten grand for his older-than-my-parents'-marriage Tannoys recently, I doubt that I could afford new ones.
Quote:
When it comes to amps, though, I think everyone should agree w/me. Ditch the all-in-one units and get a dedicated, two-channel power amp.
Actually, I do have a separate amp. I miswrote earlier. The switching part (i.e. the preamp) is part of the CD stacker/tuner, not part of the amp. (Both components are mini-sized, and together they're just a little bit wider than my PowerBook.) But I'm not replacing any of that stuff. It still works fine, and the remote has a solid-feeling aluminium case that feels better than the plastic remotes that ever some high-dollar stuff is shipping with. Besides, I've also bought two cars and put a deposit down on a third, in the last month, so cashflow is a real issue. Going to stereo shops makes one realise that quality hi-fi has its own bizzare little culture, kind of like decent clothing. They have their Paul Smiths and Etros that no one outside of their little circle has heard of. I was inundated with strange names, like Krell, Mark Levinson, Cary, BAT, and Anthem. I'm going to hit some different ones today, and who knows, maybe I'll come home with something. Peace, JG
post #8 of 11
Heh, why do you need 3 cars? ;p Sell one and buy a nice stereo Anyway, I haven't looked at speakers in that price range in long time, your best bet is to check-out AudioReview. They've got a listing (with comments) of just about every component on the planet. Another option woudl be to buy a pair of sennheiser headphones, they sound great (better than most speakers you'll find in the sub 1k market) and you can probably find a pair of hd-600s for 300-400 bucks. And you're right, audio has a million little companies that you've never heard of. Since you brought this up, I'm gonna plug my favorite McIntosh My mother bought one WAY back and I'm pretty sure it's older than I am; it still sounds wonderful. You can find units made in the 60s that still sell for over 1k US on ebay. Show me a *insert any consumer electronics company here* product that retains it's value for even 2 years, let alone 40. I'm more of a home theater guy and about a year and a half ago I outfitted my system with a mcintosh amp and preamp. Again, the sound is incredible, for movies or music. For anyone that's looking for a truely hifi experience, I would suggest taking a look at the McIntosh heritage line. I haven't listened to it yet, but it uses vacuum tubes for signal amplification just like my mother's older system does. I don't know what it is, but tube systems just sound BETTER. They're a bit more maintenance in that you have to replace the tubes once in a while, but it's really not much of an issue since it doesn't have to be done very often. Ask anyone that really knows high-end audio and they'll tell you the same thing.
post #9 of 11
oh and a piece of general advice. Bring your own music when you go to listen to speakers. Being more expensive doesn't mean that a particular speaker will do everything better. That's why it's important to decide what the speaker will be playing the most of and choosing accordingly. Also, ebay might be a good idea for something like this. I bought my McIntosh off of ebay and the previous owner had taken extremely good care of it. There wasn't even a smudge on the glass. It's probably not a bad idea to listen to some higher quality speakers and then checking ebay to see if you can find them within your budget constraints.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the comments. They made me realised that I hadn't given an update. I heard a nice-sounding pair of speakers from French company JM Labs, and almost bought them. But they wouldn't go down to an acceptable price. So I ended up buying used speakers and came in under budget. The speakers are Tannoy D500's the integrated amp a conrad-johnson mv55. The Tannoy's have an 8" Dual and an 8" subwoofer. (Mine are black.) The mv55 is a tube amp. I got them both for US$1300, from someone in an audio store who was listening to new speakers and needed justification to sell his wife on new electronics from a company called Sonic Frontiers and those Tannoy TD12 speakers more than he needed cash. (The speakers themselves retail for US$3000 or so, so I figure I got a good deal.) I then turned around and resold the amp a few days later (it did sound better than my Denon, but not THAT much better) for US$700, and now my ears and my chequebook are both happy. It's a lushious combination, warm without being vague, detailed without sounding edgy, and smooth without being boring. They're capable of going from Outkast to Coltrane to Mahler and sounding good on all of them at any reasonable volume level. The speakers do look a bit old fashioned, but after hearing them, I didn't care. Peace, JG PS: GQGeek, what kind of speakers are you running with your Mac amps? I had heard of McIntosh from before. They're old school, the American equivalent of QUAD or Tannoy. (We mostly had access to British stuff.) Sweet stuff. PPS: Here are the pretty new Tannoys. That's a 12" woofer.
post #11 of 11
McIntosh needs to fix their website but they make incredible audio equipment. I don't know if you checked the link, but they look very classy and unlike anything from competitors. The build quality of their products is superb and they only use the best components for them. I believe that a lot of the work is still done by hand and quality control and customer support is top notch. Since I bought this stuff new at retail (although i got a discount off retail price), I couldn't spend another 4k+ on speakers, which some people might try and argue, wrongly, is what you need to spend to do justice to the amp/pre-amp. Either way, I'm extremely happy with what i've got. BTW I also bought my speakers used. They looked new when i picked them up. For reference, speakers and amps are something you can in general feel pretty comfortable about buying used. Chances are fi they're in good wokring order when you buy them, you don't have to worry. Below are what I *think* are the list prices for these speakers. I payed considerably less. Oh and the only reason I didn't buy the McIntosh stuff used is because it's hardly ever on the market. When a piece does become available, it gets sold pretty fast. Front: Paradigm Reference Studio 40 (~$900) Surrounds: Paradigm Reference Studio ADP(~$900) Center: Paradigm Reference Studio CC(~$500) Woofer: Paradigm PW-2200(~$800) They were bought as seperates but are intended by paradigm for use together. They are very true to source and for that reason i don't think i'd recommend them to people who have a weak link in their system as the distortion will be reproduced perfectly by the speakers I can honestly say they don't really have any weak spots that i'm aware of.  They perform great for movies and music. Paradigm is well known for producing "budget" (hardly cheap though, the studio 40s sell for around $900US new i believe) hifi speakers that can compete extremely well with speakers that sell for much much more. When I was researching speakers I read a ton of reviews from audiophile/ht type magazines and websites and they all come to the same consensus as I do. So if anyone else is looking at putting together a really nice sounding HT, I highly recommend Paradigm speakers. Most people probably won't want to splash on a McIntosh. However you can get a very good surround processor (pre-amp) from a company called Rotel (RSP-1066). They've got the same philosophy as Paradigm: audiophile quality at "low" ($1500US for a surround pre/pro) prices. Another company by the name of Anthem makes a great 7 channel amplifier (PVA 7)that's also around $1500. If you can afford the matching Anthem AVM20 Pre-Amp, i would highly suggest it also (can probably be had new for $2700). The AVM20 is better for music and has more features (not to mention is looks swwwweet), but for core functionality, the Rotel is incredible bang for your buck. For me, this is TV upgrade year. If i can figure out hwo to get one in to canada w/o paying ridiculous duty, i'll be getting a new plasma screen in the next few months. A 42" TV is a bit harder to smuggle in to the country than a bag of clothes heh. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the random checks at the border. Anyone ever try to bribe a customs official? I mean it's not like im' smuggling drugs here ;p Getting off topic.. Right now I'm using a mediocre 27". =/ If anyone is considering plasma screens. The Panasonic TH-42PHD5UY is the way to go. Panasonic is currently making the best screens on the market. The picture on this screen is significantly better in all respects to the picture from offerings by sony, toshiba, or anyone else for that matter. and it's CHEAP. You can find them new for 3-3.5k with manufacturer's warranty on ebay. This is way below list price. If you don't want to risk it on ebay, there's some e-tailers that sell it for around 5k which is still 3k less than MSRP. Anyway, I figure plasma is perfect for me since i'll be moving around for the forseeable future. It only weighs around 70lbs and is a lot less awkward to move than a conventional TV. The other HUGE bonus of a HD plasma screen (at least for computer geeks), is that output from your computer will actually look good on it since it's essentially just a really really big lcd monitor. This is a big bonus for people like me who use their computers for all sorts of things in their HT rig. I use it as a PVR, to record DVDs, play DVD-rips and mp3s, etc. Oh and you can get cases that fit in with the rest of your HT components these days so you don't have to worry about having an ugly beige box next to your tv. A HTPC blows away tivo btw. BTW if anyone wants details on this sort of thing just let me know and I'll tell you exactly what to build (it can be done fairly cheap). Oh and congrats on the great find joeg, tannoy's are great speakers.
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