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Equis
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Entry Level System Help

Hi all, this is my first post

I am a college student, and I have always loved my music, so I have decided to save up and build myself a hi-fi stereo system this summer (I am currently using a Bose Companion 2 Speaker System......not quite hi-fi lol).

I have been reading around different forums and have learned a lot, but I still have several questions. Anyways, I am building this on a budget, and though I don't have a specific spending limit, I think $2k would be a safe amount. It will most likely be in a small room who's dimensions I don't know by heart (as I am not living at home, it cannot measure it anytime soon)

Here are some components I have looked at during my search:

Speakers:
Monitor Audio RS1
Monitor Audio RS5
KEF iQ 10
KEF iQ 30
Revel Concerta M12
B&W 686
B&W 685

Amplifiers:
Rotel RA-1062
Cambridge Audio Azur 540A
Marantz PM5003
NAD Electronics C325BEE

Source:
I really don't know what to look for in a CD player, and I am planning on saving for a turntable for later (I have DJ turntables which will work in the beginning)

So do any of you have any experience or recommendations with any of these products? Do any certain combination of amp/speaker work better than others (I hear Rotel and B&W are a good combo)?. Also please feel free to recommend anything else that may be in my price range. I wont have a chance to audition any equipment until I head back home, so at the moment I will basing everything on internet research (I do plan on audition all equipment before I buy however). Thanks a bunch for all the help.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Also, if it helps, I mainly listen to electronic, rock, and classical

JSBach
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Re: Entry Level System Help

First off you need to find that rare, rare animal, an audio retailer who will allow you to borrow equipment for a few days to try in your room. If you do find one, please don't avail yourself of their kind offer and then go and buy discount off the web. If you do that and have problems with the new gear you'll have problems getting it properly serviced under warrantee.
If you're not going to be in that small room for years and years, my suggestion is to spend as much as you can afford on something like a Marantz CD player and amplifier of your choice and modest speakers, such as one of Warefdale's 'Diamond' bookshelf model, and start thinking about the day you'll have a room to do justice to larger more expensive speakers, and the bass they'll produce.
As to vinyl, and I know I'll have someone disagree with me here, I suggest you wait until you can afford a very good, not entry level, analogue rig and, most importantly, a vacuum LP cleaning machine.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:
Source:
I really don't know what to look for in a CD player, and I am planning on saving for a turntable for later (I have DJ turntables which will work in the beginning)

To state the obvious, you shouldn't be looking for anything in a CD player. You should be listening for those qualities you find important in live music.

For the moment I would suggest you forget about the internet searches and reading other people's opinions, they all have their own priorities we would hope and their priorities might not and probably are not exactly the same as those you will develop, and spend some time listening to live music. Until you know what it is you can live with and what you cannot live without, you are searching for a destination without the aid of a roadmap or a compass. After you've had a bit of experience in narrowing down what qualities you must have in your home system, what sins of omission you can accept and what sins of commission you find unacceptable, then you can begin to read reviews trying to determine to what extent those qualities can be gathered or rejected according to your set budget.

An audio system is a set of compromises and you must choose those compromises wisely to build a system of synergistic mates that add up to more than the sum of each part.

There are various opinions on how to apportion your budget to each component. Until you actually hear a system put together, you cannot rely on such suggestions.

Find a dealer and allow them at a slow pace on quiet afternoons to demonstrate various combinations. After they have spent some time and effort with you, do your best to reward them for their knowledge.

judicata
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Re: Entry Level System Help

I'll echo others' comments about the importance of listening to stuff. But if you simply cannot, I have some alternative advice. The problem is, it will likely cost you more in the long run, but you have a really good chance of getting something that sounds good and isn't broken. So you're faced with a dilemma: listen to some equipment and be fairly confident about your purchases, making them more likely one-time purchases OR do some research and get some gear that has a reputation for producing "good" sound.

I know a bunch of people disagree with the latter approach, and I completely agree that it isn't ideal, but if the alternative is no system, I absolutely think it is a better approach.

So, with those caveats in mind, I actually think you should spend more on the speakers at first. If you find some nice budget speakers to LISTEN to, though, and you really like them you should definitely do it. (another example of auditioning saving you some dough). Those amps all have good reputations, but I'm not sure about the PM5003. I have the PM7001 which I absolutely adore (except the phono stage), but I think the 5003 is quite a bit different.

Coming from my own subjective experience, I would guess you'd be happier with a vinyl rig once you can save for a decent entry-level one - I don't know, maybe a $400-600 TT, and $200-300 phono preamp (and maybe a $150-250 cart) or something - totally ballpark - I could be off by several hundred either direction. Again, you'll want to listen to some gear for that one.

One thing about the little-to-no-audition approach is that you'll learn what you think are flaws in whatever system you get (I say what you "think" are flaws, because much of it is subjective - too bright, too dark, etc.). Then you'll get an upgrade bug and try to fix it. If you're on a tight budget, you could just end up being stuck and unhappy. If you have some money open up, it can actually be fun as you develop your tastes. In other words, you're still "auditioning" equipment, but you're paying for the privilege of doing so. Unless you get really lucky and get the system of your dreams in the first shot (and then you'll always wonder until you audition other systems).

In the end, my advice is to do what you can. If you do internet research and get gear that is generally well received you have a good chance at getting a very decent entry-level system that sounds tons better than your typical Bose or Sony box systems (albeit one that doesn't totally match your preferences, which will likely develop rapidly over the next several months/years and continue to develop after that).

Just my opinion, with all the caveats (FWIW, YMMV, etc...)

JohnMichael
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Re: Entry Level System Help

An integrated amp that might be of interest is the Onkyo A-9555. It is a class D int. amp and the sound is very good for the money. I am using it to drive my Mobile Fidelity OML 1's. Very nice high end with no grain or listener fatigue. The A-9555 also has a built in moving magnet phono stage that I have been using instead of my Rotel RQ970BX. I have a Rega Planar2 modified with the Ortofon OM 20. My SACD/cd player is the Marantz SA 8001. I find it a neutral and noise free amp.

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Re: Entry Level System Help

I often see people recommending equipment that they personally own, and I tend to take these recommendations with a grain of salt.

Now I think I will partially go against that by speaking of two brands, but not the specific components, that I own. When looking for equipment that might perform above its price, I looked at NAD amplifiers, and Epos speakers. The NAD C325BEE on your list ($660) I think would be a great choice if 50 wpc is enough for you. And the Epos ELS-3's ($299 msrp), though not the deepest bass response, are a great value in a small package. Both these items have great reputations for excellent sound for the money, and I've heard both of them myself, and was impressed.

If these two pieces could satisfy your amp and speaker requirements, it would leave a lot of room in your budget for high quality source components.

There are some other items on your list that could do well, but I do not have first hand experience with them.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Thank you all for the quick and thoughtful responses. I agree that I am shooting blind right now as I don't have the opportunity to audition any equipment, but as soon as I can, this will definitely be my priority.

I understand that music is such a subjective thing that is impossible to make a decision without listening to a piece of equipment yourself. I am looking for in advice in its most objective form, though when it comes and audio system, this may be difficult.

So please, continue with the suggestions, recommendations, and personal experiences, as I will take them into account when I finally get a chance to listen to everything for myself.

JSBach: I was actually going to start looking for some quality vinyl cleaning equipment, could you make some recommendations? Also, will take a loot at Wharfedale.

denydog: I think the NAD is a definite possibility considering my room constraints, and I will take a look at EPOS

JohnMichael: Thanks for the suggestion. I will look at the Onkyo (I think it may be the most expensive of those I am considering, but definitely in the price range)

jundicated: What differences would there be between the PM7001 and the PM5003 other than power? Also, would you just connect phono preamp to the phono input on the iintegrated amp? (this may be a stupid question but I just want to make sure I clarify anything I may have doubts about)

Jan Vigne: I think your description of how personal an audio system is pretty much spot on. Thanks for the advice.

Also, when it comes to sources, I really don't know any brands other than those of the companies I have already listed, and Rega when it comes to turntables. Any suggestions?

judicata
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:

jundicated: What differences would there be between the PM7001 and the PM5003 other than power? Also, would you just connect phono preamp to the phono input on the iintegrated amp? (this may be a stupid question but I just want to make sure I clarify anything I may have doubts about)

I don't have experience with the 5003. I would assume that the build quality is great (from my experience with Marantz), and that it would be a pretty solid amp. My hesitation comes from my lack of experience with different power outputs and matching speakers. 40wpc may be plenty of juice for the speakers you get - I don't know. I noticed the PM7001 (which is what I have, but was recently discontinued) has a wider reported frequency response (although both are full range). They both have the "source direct" button, wich bypasses the tone controls - I like that a bunch. I assume the 5003 would also have an excellent headphone out, as the 7001 certainly does - but again, haven't heard it myself. You can probably find a good deal on a used 7001.

For phono you use either the integrated one OR an external one plugged into a line input. That is, you don't plug the external phono into the phono input.

On cleaning, I got by just fine with manual/hand cleaning for awhile (now I have a VPI 16.5), and found this to be nearly as good as a machine with most records. You can just grab a brush (like that MoFi - personal favorite for wet cleaning) and make your own solution or buy some (again, I like the MoFi "One" solution for hand cleaning). A machine is easier, faster, and does a better job - but hand cleaning, at least in my experience, does pretty darn good.

Check out the turntables under $1,000 sticky thread for some good ideas on TTs. VPI, Rega, Clearaudio, and Music Hall immediately come to mind.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Another question. Has anyone had any experience or knowledge about the Pioneer PD-D6-J?

judicata
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:
Another question. Has anyone had any experience or knowledge about the Pioneer PD-D6-J?

No experience here. People around here aren't usually fans of Pioneer, but it looks like it's worth a listen if you get a decent deal.

commsysman
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Re: Entry Level System Help

In general, I always advise people buying a system from scratch to spend 50% of your system money on the CD player; it doesn't help to have good amplification and speakers if you are feeding them crap.

The fundamental thing to remember is "GARBAGE IN...GARBAGE OUT!"

Get the best source you can afford, and then later you can upgrade the electronics and speakers and you will be confident that something decent is coming in at the front when you do comparisons of upgrades.

For $999, you can get the Marantz SA 8003, which is very very good. With your budget, I can't think of anything else that would be even close. It is a cornerstone that you can build a pretty good system around.

The NAD 315BEE, or the Marantz 5003 are excellent value for an integrated amp at about $400, and there are a lot of very good speakers for $600 or less. Epos ELS-8 and the PSB Imagine B25 are two that will give you some nice sound for that kind of money.

mrlowry
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Re: Entry Level System Help

I agree with commsysman. Beginners, and many times people that should KNOW better rarely allocate enough money to the source (it seems to be particularly prevalent with digital sources.) It's really irrelevant how much detail and accuracy the speakers, amp, and preamp can reproduce. If the information doesn't come out of the source as pristinely the rest was just a gigantic waste of money

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Thanks for the advice commsysman and mrlowry, I had definitely been focusing most of my research on the amp and speakers and hadn't really though about how a lower quality source would not take advantage of them.

I really like that Marantz SA8003 that was recommended (based on what I've read and that it plays SACD) and for the price it seems great.

Additionally I have a couple more general question :

1) When it comes to amps, I see they have a power rating at 4ohms and 8ohms. With this, how do you consider speakers that have a nominal impedance of 6ohms?

2) I have been thinking about he possibility of floorstanding speakers to take advantage of their better range, but I don't know if my room would be too small. I haven't measured it but it is roughly 10x12ft.

Thanks everyone for all the fantastic advice

commsysman
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Re: Entry Level System Help

If speakers have a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, the impedance almost always dips to 3 or 4 ohms at some frequencies; it helps to see a frequency vs impedance graph, which will usually be included in a spec sheet or magazine review. In general, though, treat them as 4 ohm speakers and you will be fairly safe most of the time.

A good owners manual will often include the f vs Z graph, and you can sometimes download or look at them on the mfr. website.

It seems like very few speakers are manufactured any more that can really be considered to be 8 ohms or higher, so the power output at 4 ohms tends to be the relevant spec of an amplifier.

mrlowry
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Don't worry too much about wattage ratings. The wattage rating method used for audio products isn't standardized. So often the best way to find out is to hook up the speaker in question to the amp and listen. If the the sound hardens during big crescendos in orchestral music or if the bass starts to get flabby in any form of music at the desired listening level the amp is most likely running out of gas. The only way that wattage can be used in comparing two products is when dealing with models from the same manufacturer, in the same product line. Is a 300 watt Bryston twice as powerful as the 150 watt Bryston? Yes it is. Is a 300 watt amp from "X" twice as powerful as a 150 watt amp from "Y? " It might be, but it's far from certain. This is because of the variables in rating wattage. Below are just a few:

1. The Impedance used to load the amplifier's outputs during testing, rated in Ohms.

2. The frequency range being driven. Some manufacturers drive 20Hz to 20,000Hz because that is what many accept to be the human hearing range. Some cheap receivers are driven at only ONE frequency, 1kHz being the norm.

3. How many channels are driven AT THE SAME time. Just because a receiver or amp has 5 or7 channels doesn't mean that they were all driven during the test. Nearly all receivers only drive one channel during testing.

4. How long was the test. Many times an amplifiers circuit can deliver very high wattage but the power supply and heat sinks won't allow it to continue doing so for long.

5. How much "Total Harmonic Distortion" was deemed acceptable during the testing. More distortion allowed means more watts on paper but distortion is also usually the cause of damage to speakers.

For example in mass market goods the wattage is largely determined by the marketing department and then the engineering department does the algebra to figure out which variables give them the desired answer. The Federal Trade Commission's major requirement is that the rating method be disclosed to the public.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Hi all,

I got a chance to listen to some speakers today. Took a listen at the B&W CM7, CM1, 685, and 684. I found the bookshelf speakers to have to small of a sound, if that makes sense. Also, I found the 684's to be too bright. the CM7's were the nicest, but also the priciest.

Does anyone have any experience with the B&W 600 series being bright, or is it just inexperience on how Hi-Fi speakers sound?

Either way, I may be going to listen to some other speakers in the coming week, so will post my opinions. Hope to hear what you guys think

wkhanna
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Re: Entry Level System Help

IMHO, the 600 series is a good bargain.
They do tend to be on the 'bright' side, depending on the source, amp and room.

My experience has been that synergy will account for much of a total system's performance. The B&W

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Thanks for the comment wkhanna. I should have mentioned the rest of the set up. It was using a Rotel RB-1092 amp, a Rotel surround sound processor, and a Marantz DV 6001 Universal Player. Not the most ideal set up (amp rated at 500W, seemed like major overkill) but it did give me an idea. Could this have been the cause of the brightness?

59mga
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:
Hi all,

Took a listen at the B&W CM7, CM1, 685, and 684. I found the bookshelf speakers to have to small of a sound, if that makes sense. Also, I found the 684's to be too bright. the CM7's were the nicest, but also the priciest.

Does anyone have any experience with the B&W 600 series being bright, or is it just inexperience on how Hi-Fi speakers sound?

I, too, have listened to the CM and 600 series. The CM7 has an excellent midrange and hi end. The bass, although very clear, didn't go deep enough for me...60 Hz, I think.

Have you heard the 683? I was able to A/B the 683 and CM7 through the same amp/cd set-up. The most noticable difference between these two was the bass extension on the 683...much lower. Otherwise, to me, these two models sounded practically identical.

Don't be confused for the 684 and 683 are vastly different.
The 684 is a 2 1/2 way speaker that uses two mid/woofer drivers from the 685 where as the 683 is a 3 way using a different mid and two bass drivers. (Go to the Bowers & Wilkins website for more specifics.)

Deffinately check out other brands but be sure to et a listen to the 683...if you liked the CM7 you'll like these.

commsysman
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Re: Entry Level System Help

B & W has certainly made some very good speakers over the years, but they tend to be over $5000. I do not think their less expensive speakers are generally competitive in their price ranges.

I don't want to say that the Stereophile Recommended Components list is the last word on anything, but when a major manufacturer like B & W does not appear there much over a period of years, I think that one might think about that fact a bit...lol.

The Monitor Audio Silver RS6 is a speaker that is very hard to beat if you are looking under $2000; not only excellent overall in performance, but a very good price at $1200. By all means look up the Stereophile review and read it.

commsysman
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Re: Entry Level System Help

By the way; Music Direct has a fantastic deal on the Marantz DV-7001 universal player; $399...(half-price). That is quite possibly a better-sounding player than the one you were listening to (not so bright maybe...lol).

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

The 683's might have been a cheaper alternative to the CM7 which I greatly enjoyed, but they are both more than I want to pay for speakers alone (the CM7 essential take up my whole budget )

I think that the Monitor Audio RS6 or the B&W 684 are probably at my upper limit price wise, and I hope to listen to them as I make my rounds through the different brands and store next week.

Also, could an amp that was rated at 500W make a speaker that has a recommended power 150W (as was the case with the setup I got to listen to) sound bright? I am trying to see if the brightness should be attributed to the speaker or something else

JoeE SP9
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Although a given amp may sound different, brightness in the sound is not related to the power. Speakers rarely blow from too much power. Usually the woofers start bottoming out and make loud noises. Tweeter blowing usually is the result of insufficient power. The amp clips and sends out an ultrasonic pulse (square wave). This tends to blow up tweeters.

59mga
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:

I think that the Monitor Audio RS6 or the B&W 684 are probably at my upper limit price wise, and I hope to listen to them as I make my rounds through the different brands and store next week.

I have heard both of these speakers and much prefered the RS6...a deeper base and a clearer midrange.

59mga
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:
B & W has certainly made some very good speakers over the years, but they tend to be over $5000. I do not think their less expensive speakers are generally competitive in their price ranges.

I can't comment on any speaker in the $5k or above category beings their out of my price range so I don't tease myself.


Quote:
I don't want to say that the Stereophile Recommended Components list is the last word on anything, but when a major manufacturer like B & W does not appear there much over a period of years, I think that one might think about that fact a bit...lol.

The SRC doesn't mention Rotel products either. (B&W and Rotel are owned by the same company.) I wonder why Stereophile ignores them. The B&W 683 has gotten positive reveiws in other publications; Ultimate AV mag, Smarthouse,Hi-Fi Choice, AV Guide and Tech Radar. And the Rotel 1062 and 1072 have received recommendations from The Absolute Sound, Hi-Fi+, Smarthouse, Audioholics, AudioEnz and Hi-Fi Choice. Makes me wonder if there is some sort of dispute between B&W/Rotel and Stereophile. Hmmm!


Quote:
The Monitor Audio Silver RS6 is a speaker that is very hard to beat if you are looking under $2000; not only excellent overall in performance, but a very good price at $1200. By all means look up the Stereophile review and read it.

I have to agree with you in regards to the RS6...great speaker at a very reasonable price.

mrlowry
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Personally I've always found the Monitor Audio speakers to be a bit brighter than I feel is ideal. They also are a little lean in the bass in my experience.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

So before I go out and take a listen to some speakers, anyone have any opinions on Klipsch? This is what my family has for the our home theater system, and I think they sound pretty good.

In particular I was wondering about the RF-82? I was surprised by its high sensitivity.

Any Comments?

jackfish
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Some people like the sound of the Klipsch Reference line. However, while I've found they are a little forward and bright, they do better in an appropriately treated room. It was like night and day between them heard at the big box (RF-82s) and a friend's acoustically treated music room (RF-83s). Of course, I and most others who hear them think the Cornwall III sounds better than the entire Reference line. If you like them that is what matters, but for the price of the RF-82s I'd certainly listen to the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature IIs and Totem Hawks before I made a decision.

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Thanks for the input, their is just so much to consider, I appreciate everyone's input

The Vandersteen 2Ce Sig II seem to be out of my price range, but how about the 1C?

Same for the Totem Hawk, how about the Arro, or even the Sttaf at a really good deal?

jackfish
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Oh, yeah I was looking at the list for Klipsch RF-83s. Discounters have the RF-82s for under $1000. I guess in this price range I keep going back to the PSB Image T65 at the discounters for under $1000. Listen to them if you can.

http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/psb_image_t65.htm

http://www.hometheatersound.com/equipment/psb_t65_c60_s50_subsonic_6i.htm

http://www.ultimateavmag.com/speakersystems/1204psb/

59mga
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Re: Entry Level System Help


Quote:

The Vandersteen 2Ce Sig II seem to be out of my price range, but how about the 1C?

Same for the Totem Hawk, how about the Arro, or even the Sttaf at a really good deal?

As nice as the Hawks sound they didn't impress me as much as the 2ce. (The 2ce, by the way cost a couple hundred $$$ less than the Hawks.) That being said, I found both the Arro and Staff more musical than the 1c, whose midrange was rather subdued and distant. There wasn't much difference in freq range between the Sttaf and Arro but the Sttaf had a wider soundstage. Maybe because it has larger drivers.

commsysman
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Re: Entry Level System Help

The Vandersteen IC is VERY light on the bass; almost anyone would find that they need a subwoofer with them, I think. A decent subwoofer will cost at least $700.... I am a big Vandersteen fan; I have owned the 1C, the 2C, and currently have the 3A, but I cannot recommend the model 1; there are many better speakers at that price, I think.

I like my KEF iQ9 speakers very much; I use them in my #2 system and they originally cost around $1200, but I actually think that the Monitor Audio Silver RS6 is a little better. I bought the KEFs because they absolutely had to fit in a space about 8 inches wide next to the 60-inch TV; the RS6 was a bit wider than I needed (their BASE is over 10 inches wide, even though the cabinet is not...).

You might check out the KEF line; good speakers for the money; especially check the current models iQ70 and iQ90 (the model 90 has replaced the 9 recently).

NOTE- The current model, the iQ70, retails for around $1100, I think. This replaces the nearly identical iQ7, which was just discontinued. Audio Advisor is selling their remaining stock of the KEF iQ7 for $698 per pair, which is a very good price for a good speaker! They give you 30 days fully refundable home trial, so you might want to try them and all you can lose is the cost of return shipping. ("The Absolute Sound"-October 2007-KEF iQ7-Editor's Choice; Neil Gader said: "If you're looking for the most well-rounded entry-level speaker around, the iQ7 might be the place to start.")
It's hard to say how long these will be available, though....

Equis
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Re: Entry Level System Help

Hi all,

I have yet to buy anything, and unfortunately my auditioning of the various products was cut short. I will be doing more auditioning in the coming weeks and I will post my impressions.

Please feel free to suggest anything that has yet to be suggested, and opinions are always welcome.

Thanks everyone for all the help

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