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A novice question: active speakers + a soundbar vs. 2.1 speaker system + AVR for TV & music?

Ygrec

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Hi all,

This probably looks like a stupid question, but I don't have much knowledge, and zero hands-on experience with quality hi-fi gear. I've been reading audiophile forums and equipment reviews for a couple of weeks now, including the best part of the last weekend, but still can't make up my mind. Here I see many folks with lots of knowledge and experience, so hopefully someone will be able to give some advice.

I'm hardly an audiophile, but do love music, mostly classical instrumental, some opera, a bit of jazz/rock/pop. Have recently moved into a new apartment and got a new Sony OLED. So far I've been listening to music from Sangean DDR-63+ CD player/tuner and my PC with Edifier R1280DB active speakers. The sound of the TV is, of course, only so-so. Now I'm thinking to put up a decent sound system in the living room, which is of medium size. For several reasons, I am not going to get 6 speakers for a 5.1 system. Right now I just want to get reasonably full and detailed sound both for TV (including watching music DVDs) and music (mostly streaming, as I intend to rip my CDs).

After all that time spent reading audiophile forums and reviews, I'm thinking about one of two options:
1. Active speakers (Audioengine A5+ Wireless) with a streamer for music + a soundbar (like Samsung HW-Q600A or Denon DHT-S416) for TV.
2. Passive speakers (Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 or Q Acoustics 3030i) + a fairly basic AVR (Sony STR-DH790? Denon AVR-X1600H? Yamaha RX-V6A?) for both streaming music and watching TV. I might add a woofer to this setup, but for the time being that would be it.

I understand that many audiophiles snub soundbars, but then some say that a soundbar of reasonable quality is not necessarily inferior to a basic AVR + 2.1 speaker set-up, especially for small-medium sized rooms. Also, I understand that AVRs may have heating issues, and it's pretty warm for the best part of the year in my part of the world, and I am not going to mess with a dedicated ventilation system for AVR.

So which of those you reckon would be a better option for my scenario? I do understand that there's some compromise in both options, and the AVR option allows me to grow and add speakers, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to add any in the foreseeable future. Any input would me much appreciated.
 

sweetchaos

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Soundbars are not recommended around here (or on Reddit) for several reasons:

1. Spinorama doesn't look pretty...full of resonances and generally aweful frequency response.
Here's Bose TV Speaker Soundbar (review by Erin)
CEA2034.jpg

This has a preference rating of 1.5...ouch!
I don't recommend speakers below preference rating of 3.0, so this is definitely not on my recommended list.

2. Their horizontal directivity is one of the worst I've seen.
Since soundbar acts like a center channel, so unless you're sitting in front of the soundbar within +-10 degrees horizontally, you're not going to have a good time.
Example:
SPL%20Horizontal%20IsoBand.jpg

3. You're better off putting the soundbar vertically, and at least your directivity will be better, like this:
SPL%20Vertical%20IsoBand.jpg
This is vertical directivity, but if you rotate the soundbar vertically, this becomes horizontal directivity in that case.

Now, let's take a look at your options:
1. Audio Engine A5+ $400/pair
Preference Score is 4.9 and would be 7.3 with a perfect subwoofer.
CEA2034.jpg

2. Wharfedale Diamond 12.1
Preference Score is 5.4 and would be 7.7 with a perfect subwoofer.
$450/pair
CEA2034.jpg

3. Q Acoustics 3030i
$350/pair
CEA2034.jpg

Of these, Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 look the best, so that's my pick.

In regards to streaming options...since you said you got a new Sony TV...does it have all the streaming services (usually as built-in apps or apps you can download and install optionally)?
If so, I would forego the AVR route and optimize your budget towards better speakers (studio monitors come to mind).

What is your total budget?

I'm confused by your choice:
After all that time spent reading audiophile forums and reviews, I'm thinking about one of two options:
1. Active speakers (Audioengine A5+ Wireless) with a streamer for music + a soundbar (like Samsung HW-Q600A or Denon DHT-S416) for TV.
2. Passive speakers (Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 or Q Acoustics 3030i) + a fairly basic AVR (Sony STR-DH790? Denon AVR-X1600H? Yamaha RX-V6A?) for both streaming music and watching TV. I might add a woofer to this setup, but for the time being that would be it.
Option 1 is a bookshelf speaker with a center soundbar? That won't work together. Separately, yes, it will work. But you're buying 2 components depending on what you want to do? Seems like a waste of money to do this. A bookshelf system will sound better than a soundbar, as I've explained earlier.
Option 2 is just a 2.0 setup, which is fine.
 
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Ygrec

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Thanks so much for such a detailed and prompt reply!

So soundbar is out of the question then.
I'd say the total budget is up to $1600 tops. Not sure what you meant by streaming devices, but I do use Netflix and also Kodi with different streaming add-ons. So it's either active speakers, like the same Audioengine A5+ wireless plus a subwoofer, or Wharfdale Diamond 12.1 + basic AVR like Denon AVR-X1600H or Sony STR-DH790 (?Yamaha RX-V6A). Both are within my budget limits.
Any further thoughts on this?
 

sweetchaos

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Streaming services...Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, etc.
I just mean that most TVs have it built in now, so you technically don't need to buy an AVR just to see Netflix or listen to your music streaming service of choice.

From the list of AVRs, my only pick is the Denon, since Denon's higher models measured well by Amir. The only issue of X1600H is their room correction is weak (in other words, pretty useless) until you get to X3700H model.

How about MiniDSP Flex balanced ($550) (DAC+preamp) (preorder now, shipping Jan 2022) + Topping PA5 (power amp) ($350) (review)+ Polk Elac DBR62 ($700) (review)?
That's $1600.
You get room correction via parametric EQ, and with optional Dirac Live upgrade for additional $200 later on.
The limitation of Topping PA5 is simply power output, but it's exceptional performance for low-to-medium listening levels. It's 2nd best to Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier for $3k.

A subwoofer for your budget is not my priority. You need to spend at least $450 (say for SVS SB-1000) to have an acceptable level of performance for a budget sub. I'd rather put that money towards room correction first. Then save up and get the sub later on.
 
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Ygrec

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Thanks again! That sounds good, and I did add Elac DBR62 to my shortlist. I'll just have to look into MiniDSP Flex to figure out what exactly does it do.
 

gsp1971

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Thanks again! That sounds good, and I did add Elac DBR62 to my shortlist. I'll just have to look into MiniDSP Flex to figure out what exactly does it do.
Hi Ygrec, and welcome to ASR.

My suggestion to you would be to not try to do / buy everything in one go, as you are likely to make compromises everywhere, in order to fit your budget. I would recommend you get the basics right and you can add components in the future.

The ELAC DBR62 is a great choice, if it is within your budget. It is well engineered. Several forum members have bought that speaker and have posted great feedback on its sound quality. This is a speaker that you won't have to change / upgrade any time soon.

Just add a decent AVR / amp and off you go - you can always add a sub and room correction in the future.

Good luck.
 
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