Speaker upgrade advice please

Baz1973

Novice Member
Hi all,

Wow what a minefield home theater av is! I have spent the whole day researching speakers and feel I just touched the tip of the iceberg and I am going in circles. As such, I thought I would ask the knowledgeable community here for help as there appear to be loads of experienced people here.

Firstly my kit:

Sony STR-DN1020 Amp
5.1 Speaker set up
Cambridge Audio Minx Min 11 Speakers front and rear, wall mounted.
Bose VCS-10 Centre, underneath TV in entertainment center.
Kenwood SW40HT Powered Sub, freestanding.​

My Listening Room: (living room)

217cm height (7.1')
328cm Wide (10.8')
380cm Deep (12.5')

(this totals to 958.5 sq ft)

My listening position is 330cm (10.8ft) from the Samsung UE55JU6400 screen, which is wall mounted.

Originally I was looking to improve my front speakers, so I have purchased two Minx Min 22's to replace the Minx Min 11's. The 11's I am planning to then re-task to rear speakers, creating a 7.1 system. The reason for changing the speakers is because for some time, I have not been happy with the sound in the room. It did not envelope me like it used to when I bought the speakers, but at that time my listening room was smaller. I hope that upgrading the two fronts will make a big enough difference.

Problem is, that while researching, I understand that the VCS-10 is a very poor center speaker and I also realize, the Kenwood sub is showing its age being a budget option when I bought it six years ago! So these could also be the reason for my budget systems poor performance, I think I can do much better here, though I have not heard other systems, other than my own, so I just don't know.

I know its a very subjective thing but can anyone make some upgrade suggestions here please for the budget enthusiast. I use the system mainly for films, some TV, occasionally games, rarely music.

I thought about buying another Minx min 22 to replace the VCS-10 as I have read it is better to keep the system balanced by using speakers with the same driver but can the Minx really outshine the four tweeters in this Bose speaker? Would the Cambridge Audio Aero 5 be an even better choice of upgrade? The thing that really confuses me is that most Centre Speakers, the Aero 5 included,contain subwoofers, yet the system they are designed to work with always has a standalone sub, arent these subwoofers redundant, making a tweeter only center a better choice?

I am also thinking about upgrading the Kenwood sub to a MJ Acoustics Pro 50 MkIII, will this really make much of a difference? is this enough base to fill the space given above or am I going to have to start saving till next Xmas for a pair of subs? I have looked at the Cambridge Audio subs but from my research, I have heard that MJA are one of the best sub manufacturers out there.

Long term, I would like a Dolby Atmos system but that involves Amp and Speaker upgrades, just putting this here so you know my future plans.

Thankyou in advance for any help, I am UK based if that helps.

Kr
Baz
 

Jag of the Bailey

Distinguished Member
Hi all,

Wow what a minefield home theater av is! I have spent the whole day researching speakers and feel I just touched the tip of the iceberg and I am going in circles. As such, I thought I would ask the knowledgeable community here for help as there appear to be loads of experienced people here.

Firstly my kit:

Sony STR-DN1020 Amp
5.1 Speaker set up
Cambridge Audio Minx Min 11 Speakers front and rear, wall mounted.
Bose VCS-10 Centre, underneath TV in entertainment center.
Kenwood SW40HT Powered Sub, freestanding.​

My Listening Room: (living room)

217cm height (7.1')
328cm Wide (10.8')
380cm Deep (12.5')

(this totals to 958.5 sq ft)

My listening position is 330cm (10.8ft) from the Samsung UE55JU6400 screen, which is wall mounted.

Originally I was looking to improve my front speakers, so I have purchased two Minx Min 22's to replace the Minx Min 11's. The 11's I am planning to then re-task to rear speakers, creating a 7.1 system. The reason for changing the speakers is because for some time, I have not been happy with the sound in the room. It did not envelope me like it used to when I bought the speakers, but at that time my listening room was smaller. I hope that upgrading the two fronts will make a big enough difference.

Problem is, that while researching, I understand that the VCS-10 is a very poor center speaker and I also realize, the Kenwood sub is showing its age being a budget option when I bought it six years ago! So these could also be the reason for my budget systems poor performance, I think I can do much better here, though I have not heard other systems, other than my own, so I just don't know.

I know its a very subjective thing but can anyone make some upgrade suggestions here please for the budget enthusiast. I use the system mainly for films, some TV, occasionally games, rarely music.

I thought about buying another Minx min 22 to replace the VCS-10 as I have read it is better to keep the system balanced by using speakers with the same driver but can the Minx really outshine the four tweeters in this Bose speaker? Would the Cambridge Audio Aero 5 be an even better choice of upgrade? The thing that really confuses me is that most Centre Speakers, the Aero 5 included,contain subwoofers, yet the system they are designed to work with always has a standalone sub, arent these subwoofers redundant, making a tweeter only center a better choice?

I am also thinking about upgrading the Kenwood sub to a MJ Acoustics Pro 50 MkIII, will this really make much of a difference? is this enough base to fill the space given above or am I going to have to start saving till next Xmas for a pair of subs? I have looked at the Cambridge Audio subs but from my research, I have heard that MJA are one of the best sub manufacturers out there.

Long term, I would like a Dolby Atmos system but that involves Amp and Speaker upgrades, just putting this here so you know my future plans.

Thankyou in advance for any help, I am UK based if that helps.

Kr
Baz


Hi Baz,

I actually have the C Audio minx recessed into a false wall I built up a few years ago. I may have a few budget options to suit. You can compare them here against the Minx if you so desire. Sub wise, I retail a 10" sub which may also suit your space well. Feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to discuss options with you.

Kindest regards,

Jag
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
Hi Baz,

I actually have the C Audio minx recessed into a false wall I built up a few years ago. I may have a few budget options to suit. You can compare them here against the Minx if you so desire. Sub wise, I retail a 10" sub which may also suit your space well. Feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to discuss options with you.

Kindest regards,

Jag

Hi Jag,

Thanks for your reply.

I followed the links in your sig and I assume you are talking about the XTZ 10.17 sub you sell? There aren't many reviews available for this product but it looks good for the price.

You also do a nice XTZ centre speaker I see, with a range of prices to suit budget.

At this point in time, I am though, really just looking for unbiased advice, I will definitely keep these options in mind however, particularly the sub!

Kr
Barry
 

Saul Goodman

Distinguished Member
Hi baz

You should take Jag up on his offer and rest assured he will only give you unbiased advice. XTZ are probably one of, if not the best value products out there.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
Hi baz

You should take Jag up on his offer and rest assured he will only give you unbiased advice. XTZ are probably one of, if not the best value products out there.

Hi Saul,

Jag did not actually offer any advice, he just mentioned that he has suitable equipment for sale. I have looked at it and it looks very good and reasonably priced.

I am still looking for advice regarding my questions above if you can help?

Kr
Barry
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
No centre as a subwoofer contained with in it as far as I know. They may have a larger driver for the mids but will certainly have nothing big enough to give low bass. Having a centre produce at least some of the mids means you can set the sub lower which makes it less likely to be able to be detected in the room which is a good thing. The general advice would be to get all speakers to be able to get below 80Hz so you can set the crossover at this point since anything above 80Hz starts to be able to be located in a room so if you can keep the sub below this then it is a good thing normally.
Bose are very overpriced for their performance so I suspect the CA speaker may well outperform it. However you seem all over the shop at the moment in terms of your options. Do the replacement speakers need to be small or could you go for more conventionally sized speakers like standmounts?
How much space do you have to the rear of the sofa? The benefit of 7.1 comes from getting the speakers in the right places. A room layout etc. may help with options.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
No centre as a subwoofer contained with in it as far as I know. They may have a larger driver for the mids but will certainly have nothing big enough to give low bass. Having a centre produce at least some of the mids means you can set the sub lower which makes it less likely to be able to be detected in the room which is a good thing. The general advice would be to get all speakers to be able to get below 80Hz so you can set the crossover at this point since anything above 80Hz starts to be able to be located in a room so if you can keep the sub below this then it is a good thing normally.
Bose are very overpriced for their performance so I suspect the CA speaker may well outperform it. However you seem all over the shop at the moment in terms of your options. Do the replacement speakers need to be small or could you go for more conventionally sized speakers like standmounts?
How much space do you have to the rear of the sofa? The benefit of 7.1 comes from getting the speakers in the right places. A room layout etc. may help with options.

Thanks for your reply,

I think I meant Bass speakers and after a lot more research I understand what you mean, thank you. As it can handle bass, do you set the speaker to large or keep it small on the amp btw?

So the question is, should I stick with CA for the centre speaker as all my other speakers are from the Minx range? or go to a more specialist manufacturer, XTZ, Kef etc?

Center speaker does no need to be small no, I like the satellites small for a minimalist look but as I do more research, I wonder how big a compromise I am making. That being said, I do not have the money to replace all the satellite speakers at the moment.

My sofa is against a rear wall with a large window behind it. I had thought to put the two centre rear speakers in this window recess, which would place them about 10cm behind my head, above obviously and slightly to the sides to achieve the right angle. Does that sound ok placement wise? Other than moving my sofa forward it is the best I can do.

If you were to replace one of the worst aspects of my system first, which would it be?

The Amp? Upgrading to an Atmos amp, I am looking at a Denon AVR-X2200W

The Sub? I am now thinking a BK XLS200 DF or similar is more on budget

The Center? I am hoping you can help guide me here : )

Thanks in advance

Kr
Barry
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
When you talk about the 2 centre rear channels do you mean you want to go to a 7.1 system? If so then they are not really suited to having a sofa against the rear wall. 10cm from your head is just too close and you run the risk of them dominating the rear sound stage and not having enough space to diffuse the sound properly.
Given where your sofa is then a 5.1 system makes more sense to me and also maybe using bipole/dipole speakers for your surrounds instead of conventional direct firing speakers.
On the larger spaker front, you would still set the speakers to small but would be able to set the crossover lower to something closer to 80Hz.
You really want at least the front 3 speakers to be the same make and model. Hence I would be if you want to keep your current CA speakers then get a CA centre. If you want to change them then save up until you can buy the front 3 all at the same time. Bear in mind a larger centre is not going to sound its best in or on a cabinet (same for the large front L/R speakers) so you may want to consider where you can place your speakers as well.
I am not sure a better amp will give you much of a gain given your current speakers. Do you plan on putting speakers in/on the ceiling for Atmos? If not then not much gain from Atmos either.
A new sub should give you some good gains with a cleaner and deeper bass so this is well worth looking at.
A matching centre can really help the front soundstage.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
When you talk about the 2 centre rear channels do you mean you want to go to a 7.1 system? If so then they are not really suited to having a sofa against the rear wall. 10cm from your head is just too close and you run the risk of them dominating the rear sound stage and not having enough space to diffuse the sound properly.
Given where your sofa is then a 5.1 system makes more sense to me and also maybe using bipole/dipole speakers for your surrounds instead of conventional direct firing speakers.
On the larger spaker front, you would still set the speakers to small but would be able to set the crossover lower to something closer to 80Hz.
You really want at least the front 3 speakers to be the same make and model. Hence I would be if you want to keep your current CA speakers then get a CA centre. If you want to change them then save up until you can buy the front 3 all at the same time. Bear in mind a larger centre is not going to sound its best in or on a cabinet (same for the large front L/R speakers) so you may want to consider where you can place your speakers as well.
I am not sure a better amp will give you much of a gain given your current speakers. Do you plan on putting speakers in/on the ceiling for Atmos? If not then not much gain from Atmos either.
A new sub should give you some good gains with a cleaner and deeper bass so this is well worth looking at.
A matching centre can really help the front soundstage.

Thanks again!

Yes I want to go to a 7.1 from a 5.1 system. The center rear speakers are 10cm behind my head but at just below ceiling level. The overall distance from my head is about four feet.

Don't think I can Bi-amp the Minx speakers, that may be a future project, I need to research this yet as I do not fully understand how it works.

I see, so CA it is for now! They have a full size center speaker that uses the same BMR drivers as my Minx, the Aero 5, so I should think this would be ok? or is it best to just stick with another Minx Min 22 please? The Center is in a shelf but as far forward on the shelf as possible, so that the lip is just over the edge of the shelf itself, I can put it on top of the entertainment unit just by moving the TV up the wall a few inches so that it wont be obscured. Buying this now is on budget, I think upgrading all three to full size speakers in the future may be the way to go!

Yes planned to put speakers in the ceiling for an Atmos set up but I think I need to get the basics right and crawl before I walk before I run!! I am learning so much here ha ha

So in order of importance, a Center first, then followed closely by buying a new Sub and lastly replace the Amp?

Thankyou
Kr
Barry
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
If you were to replace one of the worst aspects of my system first, which would it be?

The mismatched centre, which effectively means looking at replacing the whole front three (LCR). You might not be able to afford to replace the whoe LCR straight away, but having a plan (and plenty of demos) will help you work out how best to get to that point.

Going slightly against the grain here, I would suggest you ignore Atmos for the time being (though by all means have a demo so you know whether you'll want it eventually) and focus on getting the LCR working properly first. Then look at the sub (and I've owned BK XLS200 and the larger Monolith in the past and I've heard the slightly larger XTZ sub recently and was impressed, for what that is worth).

Don't worry about adding lots of (mixed) speakers to your existing set up expecting a transformation of the sound and AV Nirvana...IMHO it won't happen. Well maybe for a few days you'll be wowed by hearing sounds above you, but then you'll realise that most of the sound comes from the LCR. You'll still have that mismatched centre, the lower quality LR speakers and a 'bass unit' (I hesitate to call it a sub as that implies it goes lower than most floorstanding speakers ;)), but you'll have some cheap speakers above and behind you I suppose...but you'll still mostly be hearing that sub par LCR/sub.

Before Atmos, it was pretty much universally accepted that you didn't bother adding the extra surround back speakers unless you have a reasonable distance behind your seat to give space for the effect to work. I don't really see any difference with Atmos either, if your seat is tight against the back wall, stick with a 5.1 'base' set up. I have surround backs about 2.8 metres behind me, which is ideal, but even then they only make a very small difference to the overall sound.

What made a far bigger difference to my set up was getting a good set of (matching) LCR speakers, even when combined with lesser surround speakers. Eventually I got (better) matching surround speakers and the whole system gelled together much more. A few years later (after various forum open day/dealer visits) I realised that my sub was letting the side down, so I upgraded (actually I built two 15" subs, but I'd heard similar ones at a dealer).

Beyond this point I then replaced my LCR and side surrounds with even better ones, again based on demos (pretty much all were dealer open days, so I wasn't under pressure to buy). It took a number of years, but I had a plan which only the experience of hearing other systems and having owned mine for a number of years helped with.

You can't necessarily do it all at once and maybe some find it a bit boring to wait and save up for these upgrades, step by step, but far better IMHO to end up with a superb system rather than endless 'sideways' steps.

If you are in the area to get to Jagdeepp's place, then I would highly recommend it. You could also speak to Ricky Jennings at Kalibrate if you are closer to Caterham than Langley. I've bought gear from both, neither under any pressure and I've also told both that I didn't like some items, which wasn't greeted with aggression, just a professional acceptance that we don't all like the same things.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. :)
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
The mismatched centre, which effectively means looking at replacing the whole front three (LCR). You might not be able to afford to replace the whoe LCR straight away, but having a plan (and plenty of demos) will help you work out how best to get to that point.

Going slightly against the grain here, I would suggest you ignore Atmos for the time being (though by all means have a demo so you know whether you'll want it eventually) and focus on getting the LCR working properly first. Then look at the sub (and I've owned BK XLS200 and the larger Monolith in the past and I've heard the slightly larger XTZ sub recently and was impressed, for what that is worth).

Don't worry about adding lots of (mixed) speakers to your existing set up expecting a transformation of the sound and AV Nirvana...IMHO it won't happen. Well maybe for a few days you'll be wowed by hearing sounds above you, but then you'll realise that most of the sound comes from the LCR. You'll still have that mismatched centre, the lower quality LR speakers and a 'bass unit' (I hesitate to call it a sub as that implies it goes lower than most floorstanding speakers ;)), but you'll have some cheap speakers above and behind you I suppose...but you'll still mostly be hearing that sub par LCR/sub.

Before Atmos, it was pretty much universally accepted that you didn't bother adding the extra surround back speakers unless you have a reasonable distance behind your seat to give space for the effect to work. I don't really see any difference with Atmos either, if your seat is tight against the back wall, stick with a 5.1 'base' set up. I have surround backs about 2.8 metres behind me, which is ideal, but even then they only make a very small difference to the overall sound.

What made a far bigger difference to my set up was getting a good set of (matching) LCR speakers, even when combined with lesser surround speakers. Eventually I got (better) matching surround speakers and the whole system gelled together much more. A few years later (after various forum open day/dealer visits) I realised that my sub was letting the side down, so I upgraded (actually I built two 15" subs, but I'd heard similar ones at a dealer).

Beyond this point I then replaced my LCR and side surrounds with even better ones, again based on demos (pretty much all were dealer open days, so I wasn't under pressure to buy). It took a number of years, but I had a plan which only the experience of hearing other systems and having owned mine for a number of years helped with.

You can't necessarily do it all at once and maybe some find it a bit boring to wait and save up for these upgrades, step by step, but far better IMHO to end up with a superb system rather than endless 'sideways' steps.

If you are in the area to get to Jagdeepp's place, then I would highly recommend it. You could also speak to Ricky Jennings at Kalibrate if you are closer to Caterham than Langley. I've bought gear from both, neither under any pressure and I've also told both that I didn't like some items, which wasn't greeted with aggression, just a professional acceptance that we don't all like the same things.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. :)

Ha ha thank you for the advice it was just what I need! My bank balance however has thrown a hissy fit and marched away!

The idea of upgrading to the 7.1 was because I upgraded the two Minx Min 11's I was using for L & R to Minx Min 22's. This gave me two spare Minx Min 11's at no extra cost so I thought I may as well use them? Bad idea maybe?

I would love to replace all three fronts with better kit but my budget would mean either buying another mis-matched center now and upgrading L & R later OR Upgrading the center to a matched but full size center such as the Aero 5, which is also by CA and uses the same BMR driver. I don't know about specs as I do not fully understand it all yet, any chance you could look at it for me? What would you do here? I cant find much advice on a Center, loads on Subs, test scores, reviews etc but Centers have little said about them.

Can't believe you referred to my beloved Minx's as cheap! lol. To me they were a massive luxury at £70 each or £120 for the 22's. Looking at the kit here though, they do look like toys compared to some of your uber set ups! one day....one day :)

Thanks again

Kr
Barry
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
If you can put the centre on top of the cabinet it is better and then use a foam isolation pad under it to help as well.
Having the front 3 speakers all the same is the ideal format as this should give the best soundstage.
Although the Aero 5 uses the same drivers they are in a more conventional sized box which can change the way they sound. Hence it may not be the best match. I think I would just go for another Minx for now and save up towards a better front 3 (or just keep your current speakers and save the money you would spend on the Minx so you can afford a better front 3 sooner).
Having the rear speakers up high will not be ideal as the sound will be coming from above you which is not what it should be. Unless you can move your sofa forward I would ignore 7.1 and just concentrate on getting a well set up 5.1 system. Adding more speakers in compromised positions is just not a good way forward IMHO.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
If you can put the centre on top of the cabinet it is better and then use a foam isolation pad under it to help as well.
Having the front 3 speakers all the same is the ideal format as this should give the best soundstage.
Although the Aero 5 uses the same drivers they are in a more conventional sized box which can change the way they sound. Hence it may not be the best match. I think I would just go for another Minx for now and save up towards a better front 3 (or just keep your current speakers and save the money you would spend on the Minx so you can afford a better front 3 sooner).
Having the rear speakers up high will not be ideal as the sound will be coming from above you which is not what it should be. Unless you can move your sofa forward I would ignore 7.1 and just concentrate on getting a well set up 5.1 system. Adding more speakers in compromised positions is just not a good way forward IMHO.

Thanks mate, that is perfect.

I have just bought the Minx 22's, I could cancel the purchase still I think? Will do this.

I can sell the remaining Minx 11's then, more money towards my LCR and Sub speakers!

Ok million dollar question though, with a low budget of £500-600, what LCR speakers would you recommend looking at please?

kr
Barry
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Sorry didn't mean to offend. :blush:;):D

I understand the idea of having some spare speakers due to the upgrade, but if there really isn't space to locate them properly, then just sell them or use in another room.

Just seen your new post, so yes I would cancel the 22 purchase if you can and start again: Go out and have some demos to gauge what level of LCR you will be happy with. TBH £600 isn't a huge budget to get LCR with, so I'd ignore the sub part for now, but at least have some demos so you know what you'll be looking for in future.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
Sorry didn't mean to offend. :blush:;):D

I understand the idea of having some spare speakers due to the upgrade, but if there really isn't space to locate them properly, then just sell them or use in another room.

Just seen your new post, so yes I would cancel the 22 purchase if you can and start again: Go out and have some demos to gauge what level of LCR you will be happy with. TBH £600 isn't a huge budget to get LCR with, so I'd ignore the sub part for now, but at least have some demos so you know what you'll be looking for in future.

Any recommendations ? There are hundreds of manufacturers, I don't know where to start lol

Only place near me (Dartford, Kent) that I know of for demo, would be Richer sounds, are they any good in your opinion?

My plan is to cancel the Min 22's, buy a new matched centre, left & right.

Sell my existing centre, left and right, then buy a new sub.

Stick with 5.1.....for now : )

Sound good?

Kr
Barry
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Personally I don't rate RS...I used them years ago when I didn't know any better, but strangely that was during a period when I seemed to keep changing my speakers as I was never happy with the end result. ;) Probably didn't help when I went back one time to buy the matching left/right for the centre I had bought a few weeks before to be told by a different sales person that my centre was rubbish (he didn't realised I'd only just bought it...).

Anyway, back to the point; there are forum advertisers such as the aforementioned Epic Home Cinema and Kalibrate, plus there may be others nearer to you, though I'm not aware. I don't know if there is a Sevenoaks or Audio-T near you, though in my experience they seem to expect you buy after a demo, so I always felt pressured with them.

The other option is to look in the classifieds as speakers tend not to be a risky purchase (they either work or they don't and cosmetics should be obvious from photos or when you collect them). If you make a poor choice, then you can always sell them on at little loss compared to buying new and trying to sell again a short time after (been there, done that).

We could give lists of suitable speakers in your price range, but ultimately you have to like them and the only way you find that out is by listening to them. I honestly don't know what to recommend in that price range though (but beware of certain posters just giving you links to Superfi appearing knowledgeable; ask if they have actually heard the speaker ;)). My comments are more in general terms of matching the LCR and not wasting money on 'upgrades' that aren't...I hope they were still useful information though.
 

Baz1973

Novice Member
Personally I don't rate RS...I used them years ago when I didn't know any better, but strangely that was during a period when I seemed to keep changing my speakers as I was never happy with the end result. ;) Probably didn't help when I went back one time to buy the matching left/right for the centre I had bought a few weeks before to be told by a different sales person that my centre was rubbish (he didn't realised I'd only just bought it...).

Anyway, back to the point; there are forum advertisers such as the aforementioned Epic Home Cinema and Kalibrate, plus there may be others nearer to you, though I'm not aware. I don't know if there is a Sevenoaks or Audio-T near you, though in my experience they seem to expect you buy after a demo, so I always felt pressured with them.

The other option is to look in the classifieds as speakers tend not to be a risky purchase (they either work or they don't and cosmetics should be obvious from photos or when you collect them). If you make a poor choice, then you can always sell them on at little loss compared to buying new and trying to sell again a short time after (been there, done that).

We could give lists of suitable speakers in your price range, but ultimately you have to like them and the only way you find that out is by listening to them. I honestly don't know what to recommend in that price range though (but beware of certain posters just giving you links to Superfi appearing knowledgeable; ask if they have actually heard the speaker ;)). My comments are more in general terms of matching the LCR and not wasting money on 'upgrades' that aren't...I hope they were still useful information though.

Was great advice and between the two of you, stopped me 'upgrading' only to end up 'upgrading' properly again in six months haha!

Thanks again

Kr
Barry
 

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