Advice on Family Room Music/Movie System

Hi all

Looking for some advice on a family room music and movie system. I will put this together mostly from scratch as a second system. I do have a Sony DVP-NS9100ES player that will be the primary source, but I need speakers and power.

The room is somewhat space constrained for the speakers. I have a fireplace with a flat planel display mounted above. There is wall space on either side of the display, and wall space behind the seating area. Wall mounting is preferable because of young kids and the room layout.

So I'm looking for suggestions for small monitors and center channel that can be wall mounted, and maybe in-wall surrounds. Budget it not too big, maybe $1500 for all. Or maybe for the front three and I'll get surrounds later.

I suppose a good receiver is the way to go, maybe for around $1000. I value music performance, and 7 channels to drive a second zone would be a plus.

New or used is ok. So, what do you think?
I'd consider active speakers and a pre/pro.

The new JBL 2300 series might be worth a look:
Matching subwoofer:

I'd look for a used Integra DTC-9.8 pre/pro:
I second the Integra 9.8 but would check out the Onkyo version that is in clearance on the Onkyo web site for less then $1K. I would not mount the center on the wall. For a great discussion of where to put the speakers check out the Toole book 'Sound Reproduction.
I'd only think of placing wall mounted speakers for the rears. I'd also think of running a ghost center ch instead of having to deal with the fireplace and positioning... stand... wall... etc.

I'd highly reccomend stand mounted speakers, or floor standers for the mains. There are a lot of small to mid sized speakers which do very well with music and HT... Mythos, VSA, Silverline... etc.

A receiver is the ticket for cost cutting. Check out Onkyo or maybe Marantz. I chose Onkyo.

put some money into the sub... for sure.

good luck...
Thanks for the ideas so far.

I will probably lean away from active monitors because there is so much less to choose from than traditional speakers.

How good does a phantom center channel sound on movies? It would certainly simplify things. I'm favoring monitors that can be placed close to the wall if not on it, something front ported or sealed. Any good suggestions along those lines?

Any other good ideas on receivers with good musical sound quality?
I think you might want to re-examine that budget after reviewing the constraints you have listed for the project… but then that only will account for which level of quality you wind up with. I’d put more $$$ into the speakers than into the receiver…. As that would be the easiest to swap out later on to improve or update the system.

Using a ghost center isn't going to be an option on the newer Onkyo units. Sony used to do it, and might still... check into that aspect on any unit you investigate.

Also be advised that '2nd' zone? It may be restricted to ONLY analog connected sources or the tuner... the 805/875 Onkyo IS LIKE THAT... AND MANY ARE. Top tier units might allow for digital sources via the second zone though... and some dedicated processors…. Look for that item as well. A call to the whoever supports team will clarify things as their press is quite veiled regarding such alternative zone uses. A second amp too might be required so do look into that area closely.

In my Onkyo based HT rig, I bought a dedicated center ch speaker which matches my mains.... reportedly. It doesn't. It does however provide the fill and center ch info being generated in multi ch audio with a very good blend and is a positive addition... but it's not voiced exactly to the mains, as complimentary as it is in fact.

My Sony, where I run the ghost due to space and placement considerations in my 14 by 12 ft. bedroom, is as enjoyable... to me. Go Figure.

The obvious diff between the two is what I term 'distinctive dynamics'. A defined point source projecting info and filling up a more cohesive symmetrical array is noticeably a nicer thing. Given side by side, right there and then comparisons, I think most would agree. Otherwise, either way can be quite acceptable ordinarily.

Not going with a center right off will save $$$ too. Once into it, one can be added later on if needed.

As I said, each method is quite enjoyable. Having better mains for this non center ch exp is a good thing too.... but I don't feel it is a necessity.

Getting a rec with the HDMI 1.3 option is going to be a great cost cutting measure too and allow for moves into Blue Ray and less cabling costs.

Bare in mind as well... 2 ch audio is my passion, I'm more geared to practicality, price to performance coefficients, and am pretty OK with not having the exact best possible situations more often than not in my non main listening systems. That said, I really dig the multi ch audio scene with well done DVDs or live events. The latter often suffers better reproduction.

Don't get me wrong here... I am quite picky... very much so... but I also realize which world I live in, its inherent financial logistics, priorities, and constraints.

Consequently, compromise is not a word I am unfamiliar with and I'm now capable of living with it with greater ease.

Lastly, given all the dedicated info swirling about from each speaker, be it 4, 5 or 7, that '0.1' ch is oh so important... especially with either on wall or limited range stand mounted two ways... which I strongly suggest over any on wall speakers. Phase Technologies, does a great job in HT presenting an outstanding value, yet seldom get the press they deserve and have great customer support if it is ever needed... though I doubt it will. They have a new line of on/in wall HT speakers that profess a general sweet spot ranging across the span of the seating area... they will be cost prohibitive.... coming in around 15K + for the setup. It does say though, that they have the insights and expertise for high end HT applications.

Were I to be on a severe budget I’d look into using bipolar speakers like from Mirage, or Eros, or Phase Tech. Getting them used might be an issue though. Other threads here illuminate their use in HT better than I can... and regular theaters do use them a lot.

Look into Vampire or Canare spool wire for speaker cabling. They’re both a good way to go. I’ve used both with great success.

Good luck, really.
Have you considered a used AV receiver? There are lots of high end AV receivers here on audiogon that can be had for well under $1000, heck for $500 you can get a THX/DTS/etc 5.1 or even 7.1 receiver that was over $3k just a few years back. The only real disadvantage of these units is they don't have HDMI inputs. But this doesn't matter unless you have a BluRay player, and even if you do, you can run the HDMI directly to your display and the audio (5.1 or 7.1 analog) to your receiver.

For the speakers, I agree with the above - spend your $1500 (or now $2000 with the money you saved) on a good pair of mains and possibly a sub. You can fill in the rest later as funds are available.

There is lots to choose from in this range, and certainly some good used deals here too. A personal favorite of mine is ACI (Audio Concepts, Inc). They don't advertise, only sell direct, etc. They have been around maybe 25 years and continually get rave reviews from the critics. Problem is you have to buy a pair to check them out - but they have a 30 day return policy.

A pair of their Emerald speakers and their Force sub would fit your stated budget. I have this setup in my bedroom and it is wonderful. Even some of my big ticket audiophile friends were impressed.

Disclaimer - I have no affiliation with ACI other than being a satisfied customer. There are other small shops like ACI that only sell direct and offer similar value. Bottom line - at $1500 to $2000 you should be able to find a very good set of mains and a sub that will form the basis of an excellent system.
Thanks everybody for the suggestions so far.

I definitely would consider a used receiver, especially since they lose value so quickly.

The space in the room is the big issue. There are no shortage of quality monitors that can be paired with a subwoofer, the key will be making them fit in the room. On wall mounting would still be the best option.

I have Linn stuff in my main system and they make some monitors that can be wall mounted on brackets, or stand mounted. Any other ideas?

I definitely hear the advice to invest in the mains and subwoofer. If you stop there than you don't need a receiver at all, maybe just a nice integrated amp. But I do want to try out the multi channel thing.

Just a clarification on the zone B idea. I was just thinking that a 7 channel receiver could drive some outdoor speakers with channels 6-7 using another source like a Squeezebox. Not a main priority but it doesn't seem uncommon.

Any other ideas are welcome!
bmd, the best downpriced on-wall speakers i've heard were energy take (i think fps is the model designation), which retail for about $400 each and sounded really good with music and movies. i'd think you can find 'em discounted or used for quite a bit less. they matched well with the garden-variety yamaha avr i heard them with. energy also makes excellent little 100w/150w subs, which you can easily find on ebay for $150 or so.
i agree with the recommendations for a used avr (places like accessories4less also blow out nice new or refurb onkyo or marantz units)-- denon, yam, onkyo etc. all make credible products w/second zone and numerous other features. all that said, i don't think you'll have a problem scoring a good system at you $1.5k budget.
A key issue here is your need - desire for 'on wall' speakers. outside of the audio diffs, finding them used is going to be tuff sledding.... possibly making you look into new ones altogether.

Pretty much all else can be had preowned.

The other 'key' diff - suggestions to get a used aV vs. int is the ability to initially just go 2.1 for now... and as time and other 'deals' come along, add to it, instead of outright replacing the int, were that the choice.

Focus makes on wall, and if you search threads here you'll find many other in wall or on wall speaker makers. Paradigm, Infinity, etc.

The Trick though, as I said, is getting good ones used. Especially di or bi poles for rears which is a good idea as they suffer less from on wall mounts and the audio info they serve to render.

The sub is the consideration following the mains.

J River music too is a source for end of run receivers or new ones... with warranties..

ACI too is a good company to deal with they are quite customer oriented.
What is your first system?

IMO, the over the fireplace location is the flat screen industries way of getting a large display in a household were the significant other is more concerned with putting the damn thing out of the way. It's right up there with audio equipment advertised without any wire.

My suggestion is: before you put any of this stuff in or on a wall set it up for a few days out in the middle of the room with the display on a low table and the seven speakers at ear level and as close to where their supposed to be as possible. Watch and listen for a few days then start hanging it all up.
Our family is moving into a new home in about a month. I'm thinking about a second system because the new house will have a basement room that could be a dedicated listening room so I've been thinking about the second system for the main level family room.

The main system is also in some transition but consists of Linn Ninkas, Trikan and old Helix speakers, and a C5100 amp. I've been driving that amp and Ninkas with a Rotel integrated while I search for a Linn Unidisk SC or Exotik multi channel pre.

I've thought about setting up the main system in the family room but the space is an issue. The main sitting area of the family room faces a two sided fireplace with a door on the left through to another room behind the fireplace. Behind the sitting area is a wall seperating the family room from the kitchen. Where the left main speaker would normally be placed is right in the walkway through from the family room to the other room.

The best location for the tv really is above the fireplace because it is centered in the room. I could offset the tv to the right but that would make viewing awkward from where the couch naturally goes.

The best solution space wise would be something mounted high pointed down toward the listening area. With the complicated fit problems I'm inclined to try to find a good location for two small monitors and just go with a 2 or 2.1 channel system.

I may try the main system in the space first but I'm not optimistic is will endure 4 kids , the wife and our dogs. I'm really looking for a system to blend into the room and not be the main focal point but that still sounds good.

Thanks for the ideas so far!