Sub sat, or floorstanders all round?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by HiFiFan, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. HiFiFan

    HiFiFan
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    Hello all

    I'm currently doing some listening/reading/learning re choosing a matching set of speakers for a multi-channel surround set-up, with movies the intended predominate use, with some music as well from time to time.

    I already own a high quality and well balanced 2 channel set-up, with which I have for the time being combined with my AV/HT kit, but wish to separate them out to optimise both mediums.

    I wrote in a month or so back, asking about B&W 600 series v.'s 700 series, having listened to them separately, but now my local dealer has decided to finally stock 700's as well as 600's, so I am hopeful of being able to do an A-B in that regard, but so far am very much favouring the 700 series between the two.

    I have also auditioned (not A-B'd) Tannoy Sensys (great matching between speakers, and a huge sound-stage, but for my ears, somewhat dynamically slow, ergo to laid back).

    Yesterday I heard an M&K sub/sat set-up - the 750 THX select system - essentially four bookshelf size speakers and a sub - all sealed boxes. The sound was very tight and clean, albeit a bit 'dry', great matching re no speaker standing out, a good sound-stage, and an exceptionally clear centre channel. Dialogue and clarity of effects was exceptionally good IMV. It was all driven by a Rotel DVD, and Rotel processor/power amp.

    However the salesperson seemed much keener on a floorstanding solution rather than sub-sats, and opinioned that one could do better than M&K if one 'wanted' a big cinema style sound.

    I was ushered into another room, where he set up four floorstanding Klipsch speakers, with the 350THX M&K sub, again all driven by Rotel DVD/processor/power amp etc. The sound was absolutely HUGE, re sound-stage, dynamics were amongst the best I've ever heard, and it really was a much bigger sound than the M&K sub sat system, despite it being THX rated, and dynamically it was better as well. On the demerit side, with their tractix horns, the Klipsch were lacking refinement for my tastes on music, as I did not really find them to my taste in that regard, - horns are wonderful re high sensitivity (98db) and hence dynamics and scale for movies, but the downside is megaphone style coloration.

    However, as far as the salespersons point re sub/sats v.s towers, it was a point well made. The thing is, M&K has a fantastic reputation especially for movies - so generally speaking, would a HT set-up of matching towers/floorstanders all round outperform a sub/sat system, or was I in some way the 'victim' of either poor, or 'contrived' set-up on the part of the salesperson?

    I do think the M&K set-up still had marginally the better dialogue, and clarity of detail, but for dynamics, and a 'you are there' movie experience, the Klipsch were quite amazing. And of course, I'm now wondering how a very refined, and somewhat restrained/polite speaker such as the B&W 704's would compare in a matched all round set-up to the likes of the M&K, or even the Klipsch.

    So please, does anyone have any thoughts to advise re the sub/sat v.s floorstanders all round equation? I'm not concerned about space, but overall performance.

    Lastly, I don't' think ultimately I'd go for the klipsch, as despite their fantastic dynamics and scale, the lack of refinement is equally telling IMHO, so that narrows it down to perhaps the B&W 704's all round, v.s a M&K sub sat system.

    What would folks advise, or be able to offer re 'difference' in sound between an M&K sub/sat surround system and a set-up of matching B&W 704's all round, with movies being the prime source? In the case of the B&W's, I would use either the matching HTM7 centre, or go up to one of the 800 series centres.

    For both speaker systems, I would be using my existing DVD player, and amp, which are 9000ES Sony DVD, and the latest all digital Sony TA-DA9000ES integrated amp, respectively.

    Thanks so much for your time, and all comments appreciated.

    Please note I am in Australia, so access to some brands commonly available in the UK, would not necessarily apply here, so would appreciate predominately comments around the sub/sat equation, and M&K v.s B&W for movies.

    Many thanks

    Best Regards

    John... :hiya:
     
  2. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    Hello John

    If your going to the time and expensive of listening to the various loudspeakers on your short list you really need to hear them in conjunction with the AV Amplifier you going to use - the Sony may not handle the various loudspeaker loads as well as the Rotel Pre/Power you've been using.

    The other big unknown is going to be your room - the 'near-field monitor like' M&K work very well for many folk as they don't have an overly large 'Cinema' room and may be sitting quite close to the loudspeakers with the speaker cabinets tight to the boundary walls.

    Many conventional 'towers' will want more room and more distance to the listener - you need to factor in your room and speaker cabinet positioning into your selection process.

    Best regards

    Joe
     
  3. HiFiFan

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    Hi Joe

    Thanks for your most constructive comments, and for writing in - I'm nothing if not detailed, and figured my post was so long nobody would bother replying.. :)

    Re the Sony v.'s Rotel etc. - yeah, I worried a bit about that, being a state of the art digital amp and all that, v.'s a more known quantity, however I've read heaps of reviews where they've lab tested/measured them, and the likes of the top rotel receivers, power amps, Pioneer AX10, Denon AV1, Yamaha Z9 etc., are in in the same ballpark as regards measured power - with one caveat for the Sony - the output (all channels driven into 8 ohms) drops to around 100 watts or so at 20hz, but throughout the rest of the passband is up around 170 watts +, and can (claimed by Sony) output 12 amps per channel (no doubt not all of them at once though!) so I'm not concerned about power.

    However I note that the impedance of the speaker used affects the frequency response output curve of a digital amp - so whilst they will drive a 4 ohm nominal load, 8 ohms nominal is preferred.

    I'm hoping to be able to audition my final choice/shortlist with the Sony - not easy as the thing is huge and weighs over 60lbs - a two person lift downstairs, and as ever, not many retailers are happy with home demos, which would be much the preferable way to do it.

    Hence my hoping to garner opinions about M&K v.'s B&W for HT, and also the sub/sat v.'s floorstanders all round aspect.

    Like many, my room is smallish, (5x4metres) and I am of necessity forced to keep speakers fairly close to boundaries, (less than ideal) however have had satisfactory results with the Tannoy MX2's I'm presently using for rear surrounds with the foam bungs inserted into the ports. I see B&W supply a similar solution for near to wall placement. I sit 3.6 metres from the front speakers, and the surrounds at 1.3 metres.

    Have either you, or others done any demo/comparisons between sub/sats v.'s floorstanders and could comment on what I experienced at the demo as I outlined previously?

    And especially has anyone compared B&W (preferably 700 or 800 series) to M&K for HT usage, and could comment as to the results/differences please?

    Thanks again Joe

    Cheers

    John... :hiya:
     
  4. Ian J

    Ian J
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    My opinion is the opposite in that I find that M&K is ideal for the big soundstage necessary for home cinema and also has huge dynamics but the downside is a cold analytical style that may not suit everybody.

    The 750 is the entry level speaker to their more expensive range so try and grab a listen to the next one up the range if possible.

    There are advantages in using satellites like M&K over floorstanders as they are much easier to position for a start and assuming that you will be using a subwoofer they are also far easier to integrate
     
  5. Londondecca

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    I would argue that any decent dealer would recognise the importance of a home demo. Your room acoustics will play a critical role in determining what works. Listening to speakers on other equipment than your own can only give a very genenal view of that speaker. If you were looking for tyres for a Ford Escort and tested the tyres on a sports car or bus would not really give you a good impression of how they would behave on a Ford.

    Just on a side note, using a foam bung does help with the output of the speakers but in my experience most speakers give a clearer output when they are away from room boundaries.
     
  6. inzaman

    inzaman
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    If you do decide on the 704s then i would not get the HTM7 but would go for one of the 800 series centres. I have 704s at the front and did have a HTM7 which imx was the weakest link of the front soundstage, dont get me wrong it is an excellent centre but just not up to the 704s. I found i had to adjust the db up on it and when using the test tone the centre sounded 'different' to the two 704s.

    I have since sold my HTM7 and am actively looking for a 800 series centre. This is proving a bit more difficult than i thought :rolleyes:

    I am also using M&K K4 tripoles on the rear which are just excellent rear speakers and it maybe worth also demoing the tripoles (any of the M&K tripole range) in conjunction with the b&ws, and maybe mix and match.

    Using large front speakers at the rear may make the rear soundstage more directional.
     
  7. HiFiFan

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    Greetings All

    My thanks to all those who have written in so far - the advise is much appreciated.

    I must say though, that I almost feel a bit bewildered by a plethora of choices/compromises - trying to figure out the least compromise is proving to be a hard task indeed.

    I like the idea of full-range speakers all round, as it avoids using bass management in the amp - from what I've read, plus what I've heard, not always a good thing to do re signal filtering. But yeah, I can see that placement issues increase re tuning to the room etc. And then there is the point of using dipoles or tripoles for a more expansive rear surround sound stage.

    A lot of trade-offs it seems - my Sony amp has so called 'virtual speaker' technology, whereupon it creates an array of 'virtual speakers' to replicate the array found at an actual theatre, and has a very similar effect to dipoles. I haven't heard them, but perhaps the M&K Tripoles could provide the best all round compromise for direct, but ambient sound as well in the rear sound-field.

    Ian J: - I didn't think the 750 THX M&K system I heard was cold per se, but it did seem very 'dry' - not much of a sense of 'space' or acoustic around sounds. Very sort of direct sounding - more like what I would think a monitor speaker would sound like.

    May I ask what made you choose M&K over other perhaps more 'hifi/music' orientated speakers, and if you use them primarily for movies, or music? They seem to have a formidable reputation for HT/movie use, and I wonder what you feel their strengths/advantages are over more HIFi orientated speakers, when used for movies re the sound and presentation.

    Inzaman: - I have had but one demo of the 704's, with HTM7, & RELQ400 sub, and swapping in the 703's and 705's all driven by a Harmon Kardon receiver. I too noticed the tonal disparity, (more noticeable with HTM7/703 combo, I guess because of the FST driver in the 703's, - less so with the 704) and the dealer played around with position of the HTM7 on a stand etc., which improved things a lot. I can only guess, not being experienced with them, that placement issues (on top of a display, or underneath near the floor - as this was) make getting a similar placement and thus timbre match to the main left and rights quite difficult. I can see why people use perforated screens with an identical centre as the L/R mains.. :) oh, to have more money...:)

    How do you find your 704's for movies? I'd be most interested in your comments re pluses/minuses etc. for movie sound - it is impossible for me to find a dealer such as to do a direct A/B between an M&K sub/sat setup, and one involving B&W speakers, such as the 700 speakers, hence I'm hoping owners of such, like yourself and Ian J may be able to comment more about the cons and pros of your setups.

    Very much appreciate your comments and time

    Best regards

    John... :hiya:
     
  8. Ian J

    Ian J
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    I like the monitor sound and think that using what is effectively a large satellite speaker is the simplest way to ensure perfect system integration. Some may like the warmer traditional sound for music but I don't listen to much any way and willingly trade off the more tiring music reproduction for the extra slam and punch available from a good studio.

    Mine are the professional versions and are designed and sold with nearfield studio monitoring in mind but if they are good enough for the studios's to master on then they are good enough for me to replay their work on.
     
  9. inzaman

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    I am currently in the process or have just relocated all of my hc equipment into another room and also have no centre speaker, as i am looking for an 800 series centre. The placement of my htm7 was actually just below the screen so was not in line with the 704s, which probably explains the bulk of the problem.
    I cannot get the centre inline with the sides with my set up and hence my desire to get an 800 series centre.

    I find the 704s really excellent for movies, the front soundstage, even without the centre, is very excellent with excellent pans and a great sense of space etc. I am amazed how much detail gets picked even with dialogue going through them as well as surround effects.
    My only real problem with them was the centre not matching, hence why i sold it, for me dialogue is very slightly directional but this is down to the fact that i have no centre and the fronts are trying to be the centre and front.

    As for having small rears, the K4s are rated down to 100hz but i did a sub sweep the other night and these do or did actually go down to 80hz on the sub sweep, so for bass management i need to change my cross over to 80hz, it is currently at 60hz due to the fronts, i am not that sure though how much sound i would actually miss out on if i left it at 60hz with them being rears and only used for movies, no music is played on them at all.
     

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