Help me pick my new home theater speakers, and get a chance to win $50

Well folks, in the next month, I’ll be moving to a new home… about 100 feet away from my current one. Yes, I’m dead serious… just on the other side of the street! There’s a few reasons for this, and apart from having more square footage, the place is fully wired with Ethernet cables, has a garage and… a fully soundproof 13 by 22 foot home-cinema room. For me, this is a dream come true.

I’ve already chosen a few things to customize my setup, namely a Sony KDL-46XBR4 42″ LCD TV, an Onkyo TX-SR604 7.1 A/V receiver, and a beautiful set of home theatre furniture from JSP. But there is one thing that I can’t make my mind on: Which set of speakers should I choose? Even if my A/V receiver can go up to 7.1, I think I’ll stick with a 5.1 setup for now, which should be a bit less costly. My budget for the speakers? About $1200.

I’m sure there must be quite a few audiophiles/home theater maniacs among you, so with my budget in mind, what do YOU think would work best quality- and performance-wise? A salesman tried to sell me a Black Bose LifeStyle V20 setup, which includes the A/V receiver and remote, but when I heard the sound, I wasn’t convinced that this was the best deal for the price ($2000 CND). Another salesperson tried to pitch a Canton Movie 120 set of speakers, which actually sounded better at half the price, but I’m still not convinced this is giving me the best bang for my buck.

You guys can argue all you want, but at the end of the week, I’ll be giving away $50 via paypal to the person who convinced me to buy the product they’re pitching.

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26 Responses to Help me pick my new home theater speakers, and get a chance to win $50

  1. I'm not going to pitch you a set of speakers, but just provide some simple tips.

    1. Ensure the demo environment is reasonably representative of your cinema space. If they are demo'ing speakers to you on a showroom floor then it's not a comparitive environment – you should be listening in a dedicated home theater room.

    2. Take YOUR dvds. The salespeople will pull out their discs to show you their features. Insist on watching your favourite movies to see how they compare.

    3. Try listening with the sound down low. Anyone can turn the volume up, but when you turn the sound down do the speakers lose power disproportionately?

    4. Let your ears do the choosing. Close your eyes and sit for several minutes through various scenes and ask not to be interrupted. Closing your eyes removes the visual distraction of their pretty plasma screen.

    5. I would take Canton over Bose any day of the week.

    Lastly, I cannot imagine why you would but an LCD screen over a plasma in a dedicated theatre space. Rule of thumb for anything over 42" is LCD is good for brightly lit rooms as their backlighting helps to punch through ambient light, and plasmas rule in dark rooms.

    I realise that you are on the edge of that decision point ie buying a 42" screen, but please make sure you compare your LCD screen with an equivalent (or larger :-) Plasma in a dark home theatre test room so you can make sure you are comparing apples with apples in your equivalent viewing environment.

    If you were comparing LCD with Plasma in a brightly fluoro lit showroom then you got conned. LCD will always look more brilliant in that environment.

    Given the price of the LCD you are looking at, you would do well to start here: http://reviews.cnet.com/4566-12982_7-0.html?filte

    Good luck!

    -JR

    • Yeah.. in most cases, Plasma will always be better than an LCD display… but there are a few exceptions… The 46" XBR4 model from Sony is one of them…

      Panasonic is coming out with a new 50" Plasma model soon.. probably priced a bit lower than what I want to pay.. so I may wait for this… but it's a 1080i..

      Anyone knows if I'll see a difference between a 1080i and 1080p on a 50" display?

  2. The Infinity TSS-450 is a 5.1 surround-sound system. Unlike some other budget speakers, this speaker set includes a 100-watt powered subwoofer. Reviews say that despite its low price, sound reproduction is very accurate and the system is capable of delivering pleasing bass in smaller rooms. Furthermore, experts say dialogue sounds crisp and clear. The sub is bulky, but the satellites are small — a benefit in rooms that might otherwise be overwhelmed by five full-sized speakers plus a subwoofer. According to reviews, the Infinity TSS-450 outperforms its price, but some say the midrange is a little weak.

    (*est. $175)

  3. I'm not going to pitch you a set of speakers, but just provide some simple tips.

    1. Ensure the demo environment is reasonably representative of your cinema space. If they are demo'ing speakers to you on a showroom floor then it's not a comparitive environment – you should be listening in a dedicated home theater room.

    2. Take YOUR dvds. The salespeople will pull out their discs to show you their features. Insist on watching your favourite movies to see how they compare.

    3. Try listening with the sound down low. Anyone can turn the volume up, but when you turn the sound down do the speakers lose power disproportionately?

    4. Let your ears do the choosing. Close your eyes and sit for several minutes through various scenes and ask not to be interrupted. Closing your eyes removes the visual distraction of their pretty plasma screen.

    5. I would take Canton over Bose any day of the week.

    Lastly, I cannot imagine why you would but an LCD screen over a plasma in a dedicated theatre space. Rule of thumb for anything over 42" is LCD is good for brightly lit rooms as their backlighting helps to punch through ambient light, and plasmas rule in dark rooms.

    I realise that you are on the edge of that decision point ie buying a 42" screen, but please make sure you compare your LCD screen with an equivalent (or larger :-) Plasma in a dark home theatre test room so you can make sure you are comparing apples with apples in your equivalent viewing environment.

    If you were comparing LCD with Plasma in a brightly fluoro lit showroom then you got conned. LCD will always look more brilliant in that environment.

    Given the price of the LCD you are looking at, you would do well to start here: http://reviews.cnet.com/4566-12982_7-0.html?filte

    Good luck!

    -JR

    • Yeah.. in most cases, Plasma will always be better than an LCD display… but there are a few exceptions… The 46″ XBR4 model from Sony is one of them…

      Panasonic is coming out with a new 50″ Plasma model soon.. probably priced a bit lower than what I want to pay.. so I may wait for this… but it’s a 1080i..

      Anyone knows if I’ll see a difference between a 1080i and 1080p on a 50″ display?

  4. My setup (roughly):

    Front: Infinity Primus P362 4-way Towers

    Sides and Back: Infinity Primus P152 or P162

    Center: Infinity TSS-CENTER4000 ($$) or Primus PC250 ($)

    Sub: PS28 or PS210 (depending on how much money you have left)

    You must buy full-range front speakers! The front 3 channels carry just about everything, and good L&R speakers will carry almost all but the lowest low-frequency effects, which means you can wait on the sub woofer.

    The Primus line is voice matched (same high frequency response), and you can find the Primus 360 cheaper on ebay. Buy the back channel speakers now if you can so you get the voice matching.

    The Onkyo is a great receiver. I have the next one up. You can fine-tune the sound to suit your ears. You really need to audition the speakers (especially the L&R front speakers) using your favorite music and movies.

  5. My setup (roughly):

    Front: Infinity Primus P362 4-way Towers
    Sides and Back: Infinity Primus P152 or P162
    Center: Infinity TSS-CENTER4000 ($$) or Primus PC250 ($)
    Sub: PS28 or PS210 (depending on how much money you have left)

    You must buy full-range front speakers! The front 3 channels carry just about everything, and good L&R speakers will carry almost all but the lowest low-frequency effects, which means you can wait on the sub woofer.

    The Primus line is voice matched (same high frequency response), and you can find the Primus 360 cheaper on ebay. Buy the back channel speakers now if you can so you get the voice matching.

    The Onkyo is a great receiver. I have the next one up. You can fine-tune the sound to suit your ears. You really need to audition the speakers (especially the L&R front speakers) using your favorite music and movies.

  6. Auditioning the speakers they are selling you always gives the best results in choosing a speaker. I am using Wharfedale speakers for my home theater. Maybe you should give it a shot and see if it works for you.

  7. Auditioning the speakers they are selling you always gives the best results in choosing a speaker. I am using Wharfedale speakers for my home theater. Maybe you should give it a shot and see if it works for you.

  8. Hello there, in my opinion, the way you can get the best sound is with an Onkyo Receiver. Make sure it has the ability to output the low frequency effects to a subwoofer while having all the other channels set as full range speakers.

    Once you find a good enough Onkyo Receiver that can do that, then the best speakers for left, right, and rear in my opinion are the Bose 201 Bookshelf speakers. They sound pretty loud, while revealing every little detail and having very good bass response. Buy 2 pairs of those (currently $196 each pair), and then buy either an Infinity Beta C360 or Bose VCS-10 Center Channel Speaker, whichever you can find cheapest. They are both great for center channel and they will set you back about $200. So in speakers, you will be spending $196 x 2 = $392, plus $200 for center channel = $592, and for a good Onkyo receiver, like the SR875 with HDMI and 7.1 sound, youll need about $1000, but it is the best you can get. Since you are on a budget of $1200, an alternative to that receiver would be the SP908 for about $750 or the SR705 for about $650.

    I hope I helped. Many people will tell you to go away from Bose, but actually not all their speakers sound the same way or suck. I believe the 201s are priced pretty low, considering their excellent performance.

    • Actually, I've went to a local audio shop here in montreal called Layton.. they've been in business for more than 100 years.. (Since 1887 I believe).. They've got about 20 different receivers on a wall, and 20 sets of speaker on the other.. they can make combination of any set very quickly…

      I've used John R recommendation to pick the best one for my need, and ended up chosing this:

      2 Paradigm Titan Monitor – Front

      2 Paradigm Mini Monitor – Back

      1 Paradigm CC-290 Monitor – Center

      1 Reel RSW 810.2 Down Firing Subwoofer

      All of this on a Yamaha RXV661B A/V Receiver

      All the speakers are Canadian-made.. gotta encourage local economy! Total cost? $1600, pretty darn good considering the quality I'm getting.

      Jean-Jacques Trudel, the manager, made me listen to B&W speakers too, and to get the same quality than I was getting on the paradigms, I had to shell out at least $300 additional dollars for each pair.

  9. Hello there, in my opinion, the way you can get the best sound is with an Onkyo Receiver. Make sure it has the ability to output the low frequency effects to a subwoofer while having all the other channels set as full range speakers.

    Once you find a good enough Onkyo Receiver that can do that, then the best speakers for left, right, and rear in my opinion are the Bose 201 Bookshelf speakers. They sound pretty loud, while revealing every little detail and having very good bass response. Buy 2 pairs of those (currently $196 each pair), and then buy either an Infinity Beta C360 or Bose VCS-10 Center Channel Speaker, whichever you can find cheapest. They are both great for center channel and they will set you back about $200. So in speakers, you will be spending $196 x 2 = $392, plus $200 for center channel = $592, and for a good Onkyo receiver, like the SR875 with HDMI and 7.1 sound, youll need about $1000, but it is the best you can get. Since you are on a budget of $1200, an alternative to that receiver would be the SP908 for about $750 or the SR705 for about $650.

    I hope I helped. Many people will tell you to go away from Bose, but actually not all their speakers sound the same way or suck. I believe the 201s are priced pretty low, considering their excellent performance.

    • Actually, I’ve went to a local audio shop here in montreal called Layton.. they’ve been in business for more than 100 years.. (Since 1887 I believe).. They’ve got about 20 different receivers on a wall, and 20 sets of speaker on the other.. they can make combination of any set very quickly…

      I’ve used John R recommendation to pick the best one for my need, and ended up chosing this:

      2 Paradigm Titan Monitor – Front
      2 Paradigm Mini Monitor – Back
      1 Paradigm CC-290 Monitor – Center
      1 Reel RSW 810.2 Down Firing Subwoofer

      All of this on a Yamaha RXV661B A/V Receiver

      All the speakers are Canadian-made.. gotta encourage local economy! Total cost? $1600, pretty darn good considering the quality I’m getting.

      Jean-Jacques Trudel, the manager, made me listen to B&W speakers too, and to get the same quality than I was getting on the paradigms, I had to shell out at least $300 additional dollars for each pair.

  10. I would like to add, I didnt specify any subwoofer, because those speakers have very good bass response, but should you be in need of a subwoofer, go for a Klipsch 10 inch sub, like the KSW-10 for about $300. If you cant go over the $1200 limit, then buy a cheaper Onkyo receiver like the TXSR575B for $300.

  11. I would like to add, I didnt specify any subwoofer, because those speakers have very good bass response, but should you be in need of a subwoofer, go for a Klipsch 10 inch sub, like the KSW-10 for about $300. If you cant go over the $1200 limit, then buy a cheaper Onkyo receiver like the TXSR575B for $300.

  12. Congratulation John R! You won that $50 for having the most helpful comment.. I'll write a new post with all the goodies when I get them… should be in Mid May..

    The TV I bought was the Panasonic Viera 50" TH50PX75 Plasma Screen. Got it for $1480! :)

  13. Congratulation John R! You won that $50 for having the most helpful comment.. I’ll write a new post with all the goodies when I get them… should be in Mid May..

    The TV I bought was the Panasonic Viera 50″ TH50PX75 Plasma Screen. Got it for $1480! :)

  14. Anything but the Bose. Listen, at yours if possible. Try B&w 600 series. For bass, bigger really is better. Enjoy testing !