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Ron Wagstaff

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Up until I've listened to my surround music through a set of aged Acoustic Energy satellite speakers. They sound good to me but I'm sure I could do better.

It appears to me that the standard surround speaker setup is two floorstanders up front with a centre speaker, two bookshelfs at the rear and a subwoofer. But is this the best setup when my primary requirement is to listen to music?

Should I just buy four matching speakers?
 

Neil Palfreyman

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Tricky one to answer without knowing more about your set-up, how good (or bad) your room acoustics are, what your budget is etc.

...but I would say this: Acoustic Energy made/make really good speakers. I don't know what your satellites are but I have (aged/vintage) Aegis Evo Ones as my rears (part of a matched set with their Aegis Evo Three floor standers as fronts) and I know I would be hard pressed to find anything better without spending an arm and a leg. Their low frequency response is also incredibly good for satellites.

WRT a sub my view (and I know I'm going to get a lot of people disagreeing with this one) is that if you have good floor standers as fronts, you can easily get away without a sub in a small room. My Evo Threes go right down to 35 Hz and I get great bass response without all the hassle of tuning the bass without my sub. I still run the sub because of all the play testing I do, but I know I would be perfectly happy without it.
 

Ron Wagstaff

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My room is nearly square 4m x 3.6m. The 55" TV is in one corner and I sit in the opposite corner facing diagonally across the room. Adjacent to the TV is a patio door (giving me fine views over the garden). A Sofa and armchair are either side of me. A display unit and a door occupy the remaining wall. A coffee table is in the centre of the room. The floor is carpeted.

Currently I have the AE Aego-T's stand-mounted on either side of the TV, one more centrally beneath the TV and the surround speakers mounted on the walls slightly higher up but opposite my ears. The sub is actually in the corner behind the TV (not great!).

As far as budget, that's a bit trickier - I'm now living off my pension pot. I had a quick look at Acoustic Energy on eBay and was amazed at the bargain prices being asked for them. I could well go that way.

I think your speakers might be older than mine (2007 vintage) but that's a strong recommendation.
 

marpow

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Welcome to the club RW. I agree with Neil, tricky one to answer and hopefully you will get a lot of answers here. There will be no right answer and I'll give you a couple of my thoughts and experience.
Prior to my current set up I had 5.1 R/L front floor standers with smaller center and R/L surround. My current set up are all bookshelf and one sub, 5.1. My new set up in a few weeks will be 5.1 with 3 subs, R/L front floors, two rear surrounds and one center with 4 ceilings, Atmos.
If you are like me, a gearhead sometimes it's easy to forget the goal and that is to listen to music in a comfortable space.
Your sitting and listening space, how you create that has a lot to do with your experience. Walls that reflect, absorb, etc will all affect your speaker source. I have used different speakers over the years, but the ones that have captured my heart and soul have been the B&W and Kplisch brands.
I look at all of this as a hobby, so try not to go too fast, adding little pieces, waiting awhile before a next piece, is a good way to go. Like a home train hobbyist, the fun is building the track and town, the watching the train go round is the fruit of your passion.
This site from Wendy Carlos is very good to study and will help you on your personal journey.
 

Neil Palfreyman

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My room is nearly square 4m x 3.6m. The 55" TV is in one corner and I sit in the opposite corner facing diagonally across the room. Adjacent to the TV is a patio door (giving me fine views over the garden). A Sofa and armchair are either side of me. A display unit and a door occupy the remaining wall. A coffee table is in the centre of the room. The floor is carpeted.

Currently I have the AE Aego-T's stand-mounted on either side of the TV, one more centrally beneath the TV and the surround speakers mounted on the walls slightly higher up but opposite my ears. The sub is actually in the corner behind the TV (not great!).

As far as budget, that's a bit trickier - I'm now living off my pension pot. I had a quick look at Acoustic Energy on eBay and was amazed at the bargain prices being asked for them. I could well go that way.

I think your speakers might be older than mine (2007 vintage) but that's a strong recommendation.
Thanks for the info, but please also provide a description of what you think is lacking in your sound (if you know.)

Those speakers have pretty good reviews, so they shouldn't be awful. Having said that, they're pitched at the home cinema consumer, so there's almost certainly scope for a quality improvement with some more "musical" speakers.

My view based on your description is that your listening room is relatively small, so you could probably get away with good floor standers and no sub. But it also sounds like you have a lot of reflective surfaces and your speaker placement isn't ideal You're probably getting a lot of reflections which will certainly mess about with the low end response.

I would strongly suggest having a good read about how to optimise the acoustic performance of your room by adjusting furniture and speaker placements before upgrading. There's tons of stuff on the web, and whatever you learn will also help a lot if/when you upgrade.

Do whatever you can to improve the layout (BTW sub in the corner isn't necessarily a problem; there's no directional information in the sub, unless your crossover is set towards the high end) and then re-run the automated set up on your AVR. When you do this try to make sure there's line of sight from your main listening position to all of your speakers (I would ditch the coffee table, for example) and put the mic on something (for example a camera tripod) so that you can position it where your ears would be.

You should re-run the auto set up any time you make any significant changes to the layout of your room, too.
 

Doug G.

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I have always thought, from the beginning of quad, all speakers should be the same. In the early days when many were using a Hafler or Dynaco setup, it didn't matter so much and many manufacturers/reviewers were touting you could get away with lesser speakers in the back, but with a real surround system, you don't know what is going to appear in any given channel so they must all be able to reproduce all frequencies.

And bass can be more directional than is generally believed

Doug
 

Hamilton59

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Hello and welcome Ron!
I have a similar response as marpow‘s above. I started listening to modern surround music with a small Klipsch 5.1 satellite speakers with a subwoofer system. Later I was able to upgrade to Klipsch’s top Reference 5,1 system with large front speakers and center, and smaller (albeit each had two 6”speakers and two horns) surrounds that sounded great. But like you, I mainly listen to music and thought that I was probably missing something by not having large matching surround speakers so I added another pair of RF7ii and moved the smaller speakers to the rear for a 7.1 system. That gave me 4 matching full range speakers and there was a huge improvement in my surround sound listening. We are very lucky to have a lot of 4 channel quad releases that I’m sure benefit having 4 matched speakers. If it’s affordable, I recommend it!
 

ar surround

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Welcome Ron. In many cases it is not possible, as with my system, to have matching speakers all around. What I have found is that I did achieve a more coherent sound field when all speakers had matching tweeters and midranges.
 

Ron Wagstaff

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Hello and welcome Ron!
I have a similar response as marpow‘s above. I started listening to modern surround music with a small Klipsch 5.1 satellite speakers with a subwoofer system. Later I was able to upgrade to Klipsch’s top Reference 5,1 system with large front speakers and center, and smaller (albeit each had two 6”speakers and two horns) surrounds that sounded great. But like you, I mainly listen to music and thought that I was probably missing something by not having large matching surround speakers so I added another pair of RF7ii and moved the smaller speakers to the rear for a 7.1 system. That gave me 4 matching full range speakers and there was a huge improvement in my surround sound listening. We are very lucky to have a lot of 4 channel quad releases that I’m sure benefit having 4 matched speakers. If it’s affordable, I recommend it!
I think inadvertently you have highlighted the flaw in my thinking. If I only had four speakers how would I play all the 5.1 albums I have accumulated.

Furthermore with the limitations of my room, I could not fit four floor-standing speakers. I could only have two stand-mounted and an identical two wall-mounted. But presumably then I would lose out on the bass provided by floorstanders. So there's a compromise.

Especially considering that bass is largely non-directional, I'm beginning to think the standard set-up has its merits.
 

LuvMyQuad

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I think inadvertently you have highlighted the flaw in my thinking. If I only had four speakers how would I play all the 5.1 albums I have accumulated.

Furthermore with the limitations of my room, I could not fit four floor-standing speakers. I could only have two stand-mounted and an identical two wall-mounted. But presumably then I would lose out on the bass provided by floorstanders. So there's a compromise.

Especially considering that bass is largely non-directional, I'm beginning to think the standard set-up has its merits.
Most gear will allow you to use a phantom center mode where the center is mixed into the Front L/R.

Your listening space is similar to mine. Its my listening room and a functioning family room. So i cant have floor standers with all the stuff i have in the way that would block and reflect sound from the bottom 2/3 of the speaker.

The solution for me is small stand mounted monitors and a sub. Mine are all identical NHT Super ones. The center is tipped on its side. all speakers are at the same tweeter voice coil height. Rears are at about 95 degrees to the sides. Maybe similar to what you are using now, but bigger woofers.

If i were looking for a speaker upgrade and I lived in the UK, I would take a look at the Wharfedale line. Aren't they made there? and i'm guessing you'd get a friendlier price than what Id pay for them here in the US. They have a small monitor line with AMT tweeters that look sweet.

Wharfedale
 

Doug G.

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In my post above, I really should have used the qualifier, ",,,whenever possible..." as I realize it is not always. Any surround system is better than none.

Doug
 

bluelightning

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Forgive my insolence, but I disagree with the advice of no subwoofer. In fact, I would say that even with full sized floor standing speakers, having a subwoofer is advantageous or rather necessary. Now if you are going to use, bookshelf for the fronts or the rears, it becomes even more necessary. But this depends on the type of music you listen and your affinity for bass. For me reaching down to something like 35Hz is pitiful. I personally need bass to reach down below 15 Hz in room.
 

timothyemerson

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Forgive my insolence, but I disagree with the advice of no subwoofer. In fact, I would say that even with full sized floor standing speakers, having a subwoofer is advantageous or rather necessary. Now if you are going to use, bookshelf for the fronts or the rears, it becomes even more necessary. But this depends on the type of music you listen and your affinity for bass. For me reaching down to something like 35Hz is pitiful. I personally need bass to reach down below 15 Hz in room.
I gotta agree. My fronts go down to 28Hz and sub to 20Hz, and it adds way more listening enjoyment. There may be more that I'm not hearing but with these speakers, I've heard sounds in stuff I'm really familiar with that I haven't heard before. You don't know what you can't hear! Or something like that.
 

Neil Palfreyman

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What Hi-Fi have just published their Best Speaker systems guide for 2020. You may want to take a look at that.

The sub/no sub is a preference thing; I said in an earlier post that people would disagree with me, and that's fine :)

...but bear in mind that in a small room, unless you have some kind of phase correction like Dirac, and/or put a lot of effort into tuning the way the sub integrates into the other speakers, the very low end response (below 60Hz) is influenced more by the room acoustics and sub placement than anything else, including the frequency range of the sub. At those frequencies you get massive amounts of sound wave reflections and standing waves. Those reflected waves either cancel or re-enforce the wave coming out of the sub, so the frequency response between, say 20Hz and 50Hz will likely have two or three +6dB peaks and/or -6dB troughs. What you end up listening to is room colour over and above anything that was recorded.

On a different subject, Ron - I took a look at the specs and manual for your AVR; IMHO you don't want to be getting rid of that! It should be more than adequate and has features (like multi channel analogue inputs) that many people on QQ (me included) would kill for ;)

It's also got a seriously good EQ stage that can store/recall multiple settings. So I reiterate my earlier advice; before you spend money do what you can to optimise your listening room, then re-run the AVR automated set up with the mic at head height in your listening position. If you're not already, then get familiar with what your amp can do, and experiment with it! If you decide at a later date up update your speakers anything you learn will still be useful.
 

ar surround

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Forgive my insolence, but I disagree with the advice of no subwoofer. In fact, I would say that even with full sized floor standing speakers, having a subwoofer is advantageous or rather necessary. Now if you are going to use, bookshelf for the fronts or the rears, it becomes even more necessary. But this depends on the type of music you listen and your affinity for bass. For me reaching down to something like 35Hz is pitiful. I personally need bass to reach down below 15 Hz in room.
If I was building my system again from scratch I would likely go with smaller matched speakers all around and at least two subwoofers...perhaps four. (You can thank me later for bankrupting you. 😇)

My current set up has the fronts with two 12” woofers in each, the center with a 12” woofer, and the surrounds with two 10” woofers in each. The processor allows the subwoofer channel to be routed to all five of these speakers...That’s the only reason I don’t have a separate sub(s).
 

bluelightning

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...but bear in mind that in a small room, unless you have some kind of phase correction like Dirac, and/or put a lot of effort into tuning the way the sub integrates into the other speakers, the very low end response (below 60Hz) is influenced more by the room acoustics and sub placement than anything else, including the frequency range of the sub. At those frequencies you get massive amounts of sound wave reflections and standing waves. Those reflected waves either cancel or re-enforce the wave coming out of the sub, so the frequency response between, say 20Hz and 50Hz will likely have two or three +6dB peaks and/or -6dB troughs. What you end up listening to is room colour over and above anything that was recorded.
Sorry Neil, still can't fully agree with you :(Any reasonable sized room is going to have it's peaks and troughs as far as frequency response is concerned, however the room can't produce or reinforce what simply isn't there. Sure smaller rooms will reinforce frequencies below 60 Hz and you will get lower extension in a smaller room, however to get meaningful extension from high to mid twenties & down below a sub will be necessary in most cases even with floor standers. If one is using book shelf speakers, a subwoofer is going to be necessary. There is no room size that is going to alleviate/bring back those missing frequencies.
 

bluelightning

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Here are two speaker firms that I recommend for bookshelfs/floorstanders. Doubtless there are many other reputable firms.





For best value and ironically best service (unless you have a trusty B& M store you like) I would go with an internet direct vendor, as above. Also, for a subwoofer, I would go with a firm that mostly specializes in subwoofers e.g HSU, SVS, Rythmik etc..

As @ar surround said, you can thank him for going bankrupt. I want no part of that blame. 🤣
 
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EricKalet

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Up until I've listened to my surround music through a set of aged Acoustic Energy satellite speakers. They sound good to me but I'm sure I could do better.

It appears to me that the standard surround speaker setup is two floorstanders up front with a centre speaker, two bookshelfs at the rear and a subwoofer. But is this the best setup when my primary requirement is to listen to music?

Should I just buy four matching speakers?
Matching is the way to go. Then you never have to worry about timbre being off, matching speakers guarantees you identical characteristics.
 

LuvMyQuad

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Here is another set of bookshelf speakers I find interesting. And hard to beat the price. Not sure about shipping cost to the UK though. They have a full line using the same ribbon tweeters, including towers, and Atmos in ceiling speakers where the tweeters angle is adjustable. I really like the products this company puts out.

airmotive B1
 
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