Advice for changing home theater speaker philosophy/configuration (long)


#1

Hello All,

I could use some perspective, advice and guidance on a possible speaker upgrade for my modest media/home theater room. First, I’ll provide some background info…

My home theater is a dedicated 11’ x 13’ x 9’ room, with a single, 40" wide, open entry way in the middle of one of the long walls. Floors are limestone tile and I have room treatments on the sidewall first reflection points. Seating is a large couch right up against one short wall. Equipment consists of an Anthem MRX-300 AV receiver, Meridian Audio 558 amp (5x200W @ 8ohm, all channels driven), Pioneer 60” plasma, Sony bluray, Fluance turntable, Apple Mac Mini, and a Logitech Squeezebox 3 aka Classic.

Speakers are an ever rotating mix of various items I own. Rear surrounds are B&W DS6 dipoles. Sub is currently a Meridian M2500 (2 x 10” sealed), but sometimes I swap that out for 2 x SV Subwoofers 2039-CS subs, 12” ported cylinders, tuned to 20Hz.

Front LCR is where I usually have the most churn. My longtime running favorite setup consists of B&W Matrix 804’s L/R with a Matrix HTM center channel, which I’ve owned since ’98. I’ve always regarded the HTM as the weak link, but it sounds reasonably satisfactory with Anthem ARC room correction. Due to a recent reconfiguration of my family room casual TV viewing setup, I’ve moved the Matrix HTM there, matched up with Matrix 805 monitors, to provide LCR duties.

As such, in my home theater, I’m back to using an Audax DIY Home Theater speaker setup for LCR. The Audax HT speakers were designed by Dr. Joe D’Appolito for Audax, which I assembled from components purchased from Madisound. The Left/Right speakers are two-way MTM, ported D’Appolito configurations, and the Center is a 3-way WTMW, ported configuration. The rear-ported nature of these speakers has resulted in me placing them well into my room, about 3.5’, leaving 30” between the ports and the wall. Generally, they sound darn good, but are somewhat visually imposing. The center speaker performs pretty well, but seems to occasionally suffer from a hollowness/cupped hands sound, depending on the source material.

I do really enjoy good sounding stereo music. I’m still haunted by the memory of hearing a perfectly reproduced solo piano on a pair of small monitor speakers at an Audio store in the mid ’80’s in Champaign, IL. Wish I had noted what speakers they were or the piece of music being played. But, admittedly, the majority of my listening these days consists of movies and television.

As such, I’ve been contemplating a change of direction and “throwing in the towel” on trying to achieve an awesome two-channel result and move to a more home theater centric speaker setup. Trying to minimize the visual impact of the speakers and placing the focus on the video. This thought has been recently reinforced by Paul’s thoughts on separating two-channel from home theater and doing each in different rooms.

So, I’ve been re-reviewing possible speaker options that could accomplish this, but cannot find good discussions around high-end home theater speakers, as compared to the discussions around high-end two-channel audio speakers. Especially nothing that matches the level of competence on display here at the PS Audio forums!

For minimizing visual impact, my gut tells me that I need sealed speakers (or possibly front-ported) to make placement up against the wall more practical. I find a disturbing lack of sealed speakers these days, especially bookshelf/monitor style speakers.

Now, in contrast to my thoughts on going incredibly minimal on my home theater speaker setup, I’ve always lusted after speakers from Aerial Acoustics. I first heard Aerials back in the early 2000’s at an AV store in Nashua, NH and entirely fell in love with them. Especially the CC5 center channel speaker, which to this day is still regarded as one of the best center channel speakers ever constructed (I believe). Offhand, I cannot recall what Aerial L/R speakers I listened to, but the CC5 made an ever-lasting impression on me.

Sort of out-of-the-blue, I have the opportunity to acquire an Aerial CC5 and possibly matching 7B or 9 tower speakers for left/right. While the 9’s are the ideal match to the CC5 center, they are well beyond my current fiscal means, but I might be able to talk myself into stretching to afford the 7Bs.

The CC5 aligns with my current thoughts on wanting a sealed speaker for placement closer to the front wall, but the 7B is rear-ported, so would still need to be placed well out into the room for it to sound its best.

Anyway you slice it, though, the Aerials are large speakers, so are in direct opposition to my current thought of minimizing the visual impact of speakers in my home theater. But, the Aerials are extremely well-regarded and should provide for awesome two-channel music. Again, in opposition to the thought of not attempting to do both two-channel and multi-channel in the same room.

So, what to do… what to do… Talk myself into fiscally stretching and acquiring extremely well-regarded speakers that I’ve always admired and lusted after, the Aerials, or continue along the path of optimizing for home theater and visually minimal speakers, something along the lines of Elac Debut B6.2’s or Power Sound Audio MTM-210’s or ???

Thoughts, guidance and recommendations welcomed!

Thanks for reading, if you’ve made it this far. :slight_smile:

Dan W.


#2

Dan your biggest problem is that great memory you and how wonderful it made you feel when listening to music. If you do not get them you will always wonder if your memory was better.

Having said that, I would first do an internet search for the manufactures manual and find out how they recommended those speakers to be placed in a room, back wall clearance and sidewall clearance.

Then make some cardboard cutouts the size of you speakers and place them in the recommended place. To get the optimum Sound as you remembered they will need to be very close to this location. Next can you live with that placement. If not keep the fond memory but get different speakers which match your room and livability best.

My $.02 worth


#3

Add a Sprout100 to anything you have setup and a pair of KEF R300 or Dynaudio X18 and that can happily deliver two channel simple audio listening or integrate into the HT setup. Doesn’t take lots of space and expands flexibility at the same time. Just a thought.


#4

There are many excellent speaker manufacturers that cater to the home theater market. You should be able to find a pair of speakers that will work for your situation and get center and surround speakers that will match/work. You did it with your 804’s. B&W added more capable center speakers in later years.

As you have noted, and Mr. Meader alluded too, you need to find main speakers that will engage you, and make you feel the “magic.” You have listed space and placement restrictions that will limit your choices. You will never be satisfied until you get a speaker that makes you feel good. You are going to have to use your ears, no one’s opinion is going to do it for you.


#5

Hi All,

Thought I should provide a follow up to my original post. First off, a quick thanks for the replies and recommendations, very much appreciated, my apologies for not replying sooner.

With regards to my previous angst, I opted to 1) stick with the gear I already own, as continuing unemployment has greatly limited my financial frivolities, 2) optimize my room around home theater, as that’s really how I use my room the majority of the time.

I decided to try out some of Paul’s advice that he’s passed along numerous times and I entirely cleaned out my room and “started” over on how and where everything is placed. This resulted in my deciding to “flip” the room end-to-end. This gave me some additional space across the front soundstage for speaker and equipment placement.

I originally painted the room in a medium, neutral gray color with the ceiling in the same gray family, just a shade or two lighter. In contemplating my now empty room, I decided to repaint the “new” front wall in a darker shade of the same gray, almost black. My thought was that this would allow my big plasma TV and front speakers to better blend into the wall and be less visually impactful.

I also completely re-ran room mode calculations to determine optimal locations for both my primary listening position and the front three speakers. I chose locations that would minimize frequency nulls as well as positioning the speakers as close to the front wall as feasible, again to help minimize the visual impact of the speakers. Overcoming my OCD tendencies, I further chose a “centerline” for my sitting position and speakers that did not align to the center of the room. I offset everything by about 6" which was sufficient enough to move the center channel and listening position out of some nasty room mode nulls.

Equipment wise, I decided to go back to my all time favorite speakers and returned all of my B&Ws to this room. Upfront, I have my Matrix 804’s and HTM, surround speakers are DS6 dipoles, rear speakers are Matrix 805’s. Sub duties have again been taken over by two SVS 2039-CS cylinder subs.

Source gear remains an Anthem MRX-300 AVR, Fluance turntable, Sony bluray, Amazon FireTV and a Logitech Squeezebox Duet Receiver.

For amplification, each sub is being driven with 350W from a Crown XLS-1002 class D amp and the surround/rear speakers with 60W class D from the MRX-300. A Meridian 558 5-channel amp is driving the front channels, 400W for the left/right Matrix 804s and 200W for the center channel Matrix HTM.

This setup has restored my love and enjoyment of my multimedia room and eliminated the angst I had been having. The room “seems” bigger and I no longer feel like I’m sitting on top of my speakers.

Despite optimizing placements for Home Theater, I’ve found that the 804’s are sounding great for two channel music, so my upgraditis is currently in check and I’m again happy and satisfied. :slight_smile:

I’ll attempt to attach two photos of the new room setup, taken from the primary listening position. One is a brighter exposure to show the speakers and equipment. One is a more realistic exposure that shows how things “disappear” into the dark front wall.

Thanks again for reading, if you’ve made it this far!

Regards,

Dan W.


#6

Well done, Dan. A breath of fresh air! Congratulations.


#7

Ditto!

An interesting physical space given the window placement. The room juts out away from the rest of the house.


#8

Elk,

A keen observation, yes, the front wall of this room extends away from the house. To the left of this room is our front door, so the “jutting” of the room isn’t much more than the window you can see. I’ll post some additional photos to show the entire room. First will be the wall to the left, showing the entrance to this room and the foyer. Second will be the back wall and seating location, followed by the right wall, all of which is an outside wall of the house.

Regards,

Dan


#9

You have superbly taken advantage of the space.