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3.0 or 3.1 system in Canada for <3k?

FriendlyFire

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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking this place for a little bit and greatly appreciate the amount of effort and the quality of measurements and discussion I've seen. I hope to pick your collective brains a little as I try to untangle the mess of choices I've thrown myself into.

I will be moving to a condo soon and am starting to prepare the living room audio setup. This will be primarily for movies, TV shows and gaming, I don't expect to listen to music there very often, if at all. I currently only own a pair of B&W 606 S2 strapped to a Cambridge Audio azur 351A (both purchased well before I discovered ASR, though I still am fine with them for now) which I use as PC speakers, primarily for music.

I have a budget of around 3k$ for the speakers only and very few options for testing speakers properly (I don't think going in a store and listening to the speakers on their shelves or demo setup is a good test). I will most likely be pairing them with a Denon AVR-X1700H since I want HDMI 2.1 and that looks like a solid enough choice. I have time to wait for sales, but there's currently a KEF sale going on in a few shops (no idea if that's rare or not).

The speakers will be in the living room (around 11' x 11', but it's an open floorplan extending to the kitchen), so fit and finish are relatively important, and I will have to place the center channel underneath the TV, so it unfortunately has to be a horizontal speaker. I would like to avoid a subwoofer if at all possible, since I'm worried about noise complaints (the condo is hardwood flooring on concrete and I'm on the second floor so I'll have neighbors all around).

I've read good things about the ELAC DBR62, but then I'm not sure what center speaker to pair them with. The KEF LS50 Meta are very appealing (and I can just get a third for the center channel which is nice), but I feel like I'd rather have them to listen to music with. There's always the option of moving the 606 S2 to the living room and finding a matching center then buying a nice(r) pair for music. Finally, I could go for a middle ground with the KEF Q series, but it doesn't seem as well reviewed. I'm aware that a sub is likely better than stepping up, but I prefer a slight degradation or paying more than being that one annoying neighbor.

Looking forward to thoughts and recommendations.
 

warpdrive

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One option would be to go with a relatively budget oriented system consisting of larger bookshelf speakers if you are going subless, or towers without a sub. Budget towers like the Polk ES50 or above (The Polk ES20 was well reviewed here as good bang for buck). And then spend the rest of the budget on great music speakers for the other system. If you are going with a sub, then sticking with the ES20 should be more than adequate. The Polks have wide dispersion so they should be good without needing to sit in one sweet spot.

If you do want to spend more....the speakers I would lean toward are the Arendal line, specifically the 1961 line (check out Erin's reviews). They are definitely more on the costly side, but they have a range of models to suit your needs, and you can bet they all perform well. You have to order them direct, but unfortunately the $CAD is in the pits so it's actually a bad time to import stuff. But I feel these are unique speakers for which there aren't many equals. These would be great for music system or do-everything home theater system

The LS50Meta is definitely an option but personally I don't like the way they look. I prefer something that looks more like a box, and a grille to cover the drivers when not critically listening. I remember once somebody dropped their cup of juice in our living room and it just splattered all over the place. I'm glad my speakers had a grille because it's just not possible to clean a soft dome tweeter (you are basically never supposed to touch it with anything)
 
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FriendlyFire

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I went out and got an audition of a few speakers in some local shops, not sure they were very representative unfortunately. The KEF LS50 Meta sounded really off, but I think that was down to the system (they had the KEF KC62 sub and turned it off for the demo, not sure how the crossover was configured on the amp). The KEF R3 sounded better, but didn't blow me away. I also tried and immediately discarded a pair of Totems and some Paradigm, but I was pretty surprised by the Monitor Audio Bronze 100. I feel like they're not super neutral, but they might work well without a dedicated sub since they have pretty strong bass.

I wasn't initially considering towers, but I guess that's one way to reduce the need for a sub? I honestly haven't shopped around for towers, so I'm not sure if that statement makes any sense. I'd also be worried that the amp I've chosen is too weak for larger towers.
 

tifune

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Since you say you can wait a bit, I'd say start with 3x Kali IN-8's and Denon 3800. It's one of the few products I'd pay full price for because it appears to have years of upgradeability built in. Add a sub with anything left over, then save until Dirac comes out (TBD) and add it when you can
 

warpdrive

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I went out and got an audition of a few speakers in some local shops, not sure they were very representative unfortunately. The KEF LS50 Meta sounded really off, but I think that was down to the system (they had the KEF KC62 sub and turned it off for the demo, not sure how the crossover was configured on the amp). The KEF R3 sounded better, but didn't blow me away. I also tried and immediately discarded a pair of Totems and some Paradigm, but I was pretty surprised by the Monitor Audio Bronze 100. I feel like they're not super neutral, but they might work well without a dedicated sub since they have pretty strong bass.

I wasn't initially considering towers, but I guess that's one way to reduce the need for a sub? I honestly haven't shopped around for towers, so I'm not sure if that statement makes any sense. I'd also be worried that the amp I've chosen is too weak for larger towers.

The KEFs should sound good, unless there is something going on with the acoustics or setup. When you said they sound 'off', what are you comparing them to? Best way to know is take your own measurements at home if something sounds 'off'. That should tell you whether something is messed up tonally because the KEFs are very much accurate sounding speakers.

Tower speakers are often a good choice if you plan to go sub-less. You might not miss a sub as much when you have a tower that can hit 40Hz. Either those or larger sized bookshelf models which reach down low. If you plan on listening at night, most receivers have a "night" mode or you can even just turn down the sub manually.

Revel is another choice of course. Maybe the Polk Reserve or Legend series may be up your alley. I would still go for the Arendal over all of those though.
 
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FriendlyFire

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The KEFs should sound good, unless there is something going on with the acoustics or setup. When you said they sound 'off', what are you comparing them to? Best way to know is take your own measurements at home if something sounds 'off'. That should tell you whether something is messed up tonally because the KEFs are very much accurate sounding speakers.

Tower speakers are often a good choice if you plan to go sub-less. You might not miss a sub as much when you have a tower that can hit 40Hz. Either those or larger sized bookshelf models which reach down low. If you plan on listening at night, most receivers have a "night" mode or you can even just turn down the sub manually.

Revel is another choice of course. Maybe the Polk Reserve or Legend series may be up your alley. I would still go for the Arendal over all of those though.
The LS50 Meta had zero bass, which is why I figured it was probably an equipment issue. The room also sucked, but I don't think that was the main reason. The KEF R3 sounded much better, but also stretched the budget a lot more.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where you guys are shopping, but there is not a single store here that will let you casually bring 2k$ in speakers home for a trial run, so that's out of the question, and likewise with Euro or American online-only stuff like Monoprice and Emotiva since shipping and duties are off the charts right now - I want to give my money to the actual manufacturer, not UPS or DHL.

I'm seriously considering just moving the 606 S2 to the living room, finding an okay center channel (I calculated 17 degrees max off-axis, so I can probably get by with a 2-way) for not too much money, and investing in a much better pair of music speakers for my office. I was thinking about maybe upgrading to an XT32-capable AVR, but I'm not sure it's worth literally double the price.
 

warpdrive

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Bass output problems is often a symptom of the room, or if he's driving through an AVR, maybe he messed up the bass management settings. Anyway, you'll never know for sure.

Really, you have to take a bit of a gamble. Find something that measures well from this forum, and try to buy from a manufacturer or store that has a return policy. Auditioning at a dealer is fraught with its own issues as you found out. Nothing beats trying it in your own house. If a speaker measures well and you get it home and it sounds bad, then you have to figure out why.

Yeah, I would just repurpose your B&Ws for now.

I had a set of 606 S1 and I thought I liked it a lot. A better speaker like the KEF sounded dull in comparison if I compared them back to back. It took a while before I retrained my ears to the more accurate sound and now the 606 is pretty unlistenable.
 
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FriendlyFire

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Really, you have to take a bit of a gamble. Find something that measures well from this forum, and try to buy from a manufacturer or store that has a return policy. Auditioning at a dealer is fraught with its own issues as you found out. Nothing beats trying it in your own house. If a speaker measures well and you get it home and it sounds bad, then you have to figure out why.
That's the thing: outside of Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield, there is no retailer with a usable return policy around here, and unfortunately that's pretty slim pickings. A few will offer store credit that I'd have nothing to use on, and most will outright refuse returns.

Looking specifically at center channels, Crutchfield has ELAC (DC52 and DCR52, neither reviewed well here) and Polk's ES30; BestBuy has B&W's HTM6 S2 and the same Polk ES30; Amazon is as usual all over the place (THX-365C for an absurd 750$, somehow the Focal Chora too, plus a random assortment of Polk, PSB, ELAC and Paradigm). Out of all of these, my understanding is that the Polk would be fair and the THX-365C would be good, but that price feels ridiculous considering it was half that a few years ago.
 

DJNX

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One option is to go for a 4.0 setup.
Since this system will include gaming and movie watching, I would prefer to get the surround effect.
Then again, if you are not all that happy with the stereo imaging of your current setup, the center channel might be more helpful.

The Denon should do a decent job at matching your B&Ws with whatever pair you’d buy, and you can then decide whether to keep that setup or sell/move the B&Ws and get an extra pair of your new ones, and a center or a subwoofer.
 

Elitzur–Vaidman

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Can you do full-size floor standers? If so, I'd go with a set of JBL Studio 590s. They go on sale for as low as 5-600$ each.
 

warpdrive

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That's the thing: outside of Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield, there is no retailer with a usable return policy around here, and unfortunately that's pretty slim pickings. A few will offer store credit that I'd have nothing to use on, and most will outright refuse returns.

Looking specifically at center channels, Crutchfield has ELAC (DC52 and DCR52, neither reviewed well here) and Polk's ES30; BestBuy has B&W's HTM6 S2 and the same Polk ES30; Amazon is as usual all over the place (THX-365C for an absurd 750$, somehow the Focal Chora too, plus a random assortment of Polk, PSB, ELAC and Paradigm). Out of all of these, my understanding is that the Polk would be fair and the THX-365C would be good, but that price feels ridiculous considering it was half that a few years ago.

Here's an option for KEF and they do have a return policy

Center channels of MTM design are full of compromises, so it's a matter of getting one that's "less bad". I actually don't use one and I'm fine with phantom centre when sitting in the sweet spot.
 

sweetchaos

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Be careful when buying from Visions, since most of their speakers are marked as "**Special Order item.", which means NO returns.
Example: search for 'kef' shows lots of speakers are special order.

Before the current price of CDN$2000/pair for Kef R3, which is the lowest price i've seen, Visions was giving me the R3 for CDN$1850/pair (from a few salespeople, not online), so there's still room for negotiation from the lowest advertised price.

I believe Kef is about to launch Kef Rx Meta this year, which explains these deals and a few other things I've noticed earlier in the year. Again, IMO.
 

warpdrive

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Be careful when buying from Visions, since most of their speakers are marked as "**Special Order item.", which means NO returns.
Example: search for 'kef' shows lots of speakers are special order.

Before the current price of CDN$2000/pair for Kef R3, which is the lowest price i've seen, Visions was giving me the R3 for CDN$1850/pair (from a few salespeople, not online), so there's still room for negotiation from the lowest advertised price.

I believe Kef is about to launch Kef Rx Meta this year, which explains these deals and a few other things I've noticed earlier in the year. Again, IMO.

good note about the special order, but the R3, R Centre, Q, and LS models show to be in stock, so you should be good to go.

Yes, going into the store is the best bet, you can often beat the online price at Visions.
 

sweetchaos

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good note about the special order, but the R3, R Centre, Q, and LS models show to be in stock, so you should be good to go.
you misunderstood.
if it says "special order", it doesnt matter that it's in stock or not, there's still no return for that item.

Every colour of R3 is 'special order', so none of them can be returned:
1665507497068.png
 

sarumbear

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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking this place for a little bit and greatly appreciate the amount of effort and the quality of measurements and discussion I've seen. I hope to pick your collective brains a little as I try to untangle the mess of choices I've thrown myself into.

I will be moving to a condo soon and am starting to prepare the living room audio setup. This will be primarily for movies, TV shows and gaming, I don't expect to listen to music there very often, if at all. I currently only own a pair of B&W 606 S2 strapped to a Cambridge Audio azur 351A (both purchased well before I discovered ASR, though I still am fine with them for now) which I use as PC speakers, primarily for music.

I have a budget of around 3k$ for the speakers only and very few options for testing speakers properly (I don't think going in a store and listening to the speakers on their shelves or demo setup is a good test). I will most likely be pairing them with a Denon AVR-X1700H since I want HDMI 2.1 and that looks like a solid enough choice. I have time to wait for sales, but there's currently a KEF sale going on in a few shops (no idea if that's rare or not).

The speakers will be in the living room (around 11' x 11', but it's an open floorplan extending to the kitchen), so fit and finish are relatively important, and I will have to place the center channel underneath the TV, so it unfortunately has to be a horizontal speaker. I would like to avoid a subwoofer if at all possible, since I'm worried about noise complaints (the condo is hardwood flooring on concrete and I'm on the second floor so I'll have neighbors all around).

I've read good things about the ELAC DBR62, but then I'm not sure what center speaker to pair them with. The KEF LS50 Meta are very appealing (and I can just get a third for the center channel which is nice), but I feel like I'd rather have them to listen to music with. There's always the option of moving the 606 S2 to the living room and finding a matching center then buying a nice(r) pair for music. Finally, I could go for a middle ground with the KEF Q series, but it doesn't seem as well reviewed. I'm aware that a sub is likely better than stepping up, but I prefer a slight degradation or paying more than being that one annoying neighbor.

Looking forward to thoughts and recommendations.
May I ask why you do not want to use surrounds?
 
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FriendlyFire

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May I ask why you do not want to use surrounds?
Incremental upgrades. I want to have a competent 3.0 setup to begin with, make sure I actually use it as I expect to, and then I can add surrounds and eventually up-firing. It gets me better value than trying to fit a full 5 speakers on the same budget :)
 

theyellowspecial

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I use my system for everything and I've tested a few speakers reviewed here, including the LS50. The LS50 is the only speaker I wouldn't be happy with for movies/TV/gaming. If your neighbors are out and you decide to have a loud action movie night, you will experience obvious distortion at some point. Even with a high subwoofer crossover point of 100Hz, I was still experiencing distortion.

Don't skip the subwoofer. Filling in the lower octaves at lower volumes will help prevent you increasing the volume for more satisfactory sound. Isolate the subwoofer from your hardwood floor to eliminate any direct mechanical vibrations. This may not be necessary with concrete underneath, but it will ensure no excess rattling. I use the Isolate It! brand of isolators with my subwoofer sitting on a suspended wooden floor with fantastic results.

Invest in a room correction solution for correcting the room near and below the room's transition frequency. As impressive as room correction is for music, it's doubly impressive for movies and gaming. Room correction will also let you get away with a cheaper, non-DSP subwoofer.

Based on my experience, I'd sink the budget into midrange speakers, subwoofer and room correction (either receiver or standalone), rather than spending the whole budget on high-end speakers, especially for movies/TV/gaming. Floorstanders will be largely wasted in an 11x11 room anyways, and your sitting distance may be too close for proper driver cohesion (check the manufacturer's recommendation). Vinlysound.ca currently has a sale on the Wharfedale Diamond lineup. I've never owned them myself but I know they measure well and have exceptional build-quality for the price.
 
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eddantes

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If you want the best bang for your buck - buy speakers 2nd hand and your electronics new.

There's an ad in London, ON (assuming you're in the ol Ontarioario) for a 3.0 Revel F36/C25 set that will fit your budget. Add a Denon AVR and bob's your uncle. In a little while, add on to your system by adding a couple of subs and bask in the warm glow of your furgal audio nirvana.

But I'm a cheap (poor?) bastard so... my opinion is biased.
 

warpdrive

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you misunderstood.
if it says "special order", it doesnt matter that it's in stock or not, there's still no return for that item.

Every colour of R3 is 'special order', so none of them can be returned:
ok, got it. I missed the special order text....I thought it was in stock in store.
 
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FriendlyFire

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Don't skip the subwoofer. Filling in the lower octaves at lower volumes will help prevent you increasing the volume for more satisfactory sound. Isolate the subwoofer from your hardwood floor to eliminate any direct mechanical vibrations. This may not be necessary with concrete underneath, but it will ensure no excess rattling. I use the Isolate It! brand of isolators with my subwoofer sitting on a suspended wooden floor with fantastic results.
Oh I'm well aware that skipping the sub is suboptimal (pun not intended), but I can't in good conscience get one in an apartment complex. If once everything is setup and I've used it for a while, I see that soundproofing is really A+ (the condo isn't finished yet), then I might give it a go, but it'd have to be a decision I make later and I know that no matter what setup I go for prior to that, the sub will be an improvement.
Invest in a room correction solution for correcting the room near and below the room's transition frequency. As impressive as room correction is for music, it's doubly impressive for movies and gaming. Room correction will also let you get away with a cheaper, non-DSP subwoofer.
The X1700H I'm looking at uses Denon's XT which as far as I understand is... mediocre at best, but it is 950$ to the X3700H's 2100$ (the cheapest XT32 AVR I can find) or the Onkyo TX-NR7100's 1500$ (cheapest Dirac Live). Is that really worth the premium?
If you want the best bang for your buck - buy speakers 2nd hand and your electronics new.
I setup a Canuck Audio Mart notification for center channels this morning! Unfortunately, I'm in QC, not ON, and I think I'm pretty set on moving the 606 S2 to the living room, finding a relatively affordable center, and splurging on a nice bookshelf set for my office.

Currently leaning towards either the Polk ES30 or the Monitor Audio Bronze C150 - yes, they're both unfortunate MTM designs, but they're much more affordable, giving me more room for the office set instead. The ELAC UC52 is another option. I've yet to audition any of these (I listened to the Bronze 100 and was pleasantly surprised), but at least the Polk and ELAC I can order off Crutchfield and try at home. Unfortunately the C150 wasn't measured here, and both the Polk ES30 (extrapolating from the S30) and the ELAC UC52 are on @sweetchaos's recommended list, so it's hard to choose!
 
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