Home Theater Noob Looking to Upgrade

I have been reading about Home Theater systems, components, upgrading, etc. for days. I had yet to find a good place to really get some good information without it going over my head. I am finally getting pretty well versed in some of the lingo but please bear with me. I want to really up the quality of my home theater, but staying within a reasonable budget.


As a youngster I wanted a surround sound system so I went out and paid like $300-500 (can't remember) on a all in one 5.1 Panasonic system. Somewhere along the line the electronics of the system failed so I tossed out the subwoofer which powered the system somehow and the receiver where you inserted your dvd's. I kept the center channel, front left and right and rear left and right (all the same speaker).

Recently, back in August or so, I went to my local Best Buy (probably frowned upon but oh well) and picked up a new Samsung LED-LCD-HDTV. I also in the same purchase picked up a new Yamaha RX-V373 and a Polk Audio PSW110 sub-woofer. I am currently using the satellite speakers from the out of the box system. As you can imagine this is less than satisfactory. It has sufficed for the past few months but it is time to upgrade. I have the system set up in a full basement, not sure the square footage or anything, but decent sized.

As I understand it, my current receiver can power 85 watts per channel into 8 ohms (1 kHz) at 0.9% THD (not all that sure what THD is although I have read a little bit about it). I am ready to upgrade the crappy speakers to match up more with my sub's quality. I have a feeling to get some really nice speakers would be a waste with the receiver only pushing 85 watts per channel. I am assuming I am going to need to buy another amp or something to help drive enough power to each speaker, but I am just not figuring out the best and most reasonable way to go about this. I was thinking I should get a new center channel first....Any suggestions?
Welcome and don't worry, we all have to start somewhere. You are heading in the right direction by pulling away from the HTIB systems like the all in one Panasonic and moving toward a AVR and separate speakers & subwoofer.

From what I gather from all above you basically have a Yamaha AVR, a Polk subwoofer and are looking for 5 speakers to mate with the Yamaha to complete a entry level 5.1 system. First thing you do is discard the Panasonic HTIB speakers as you are right - they are crap!

Second thing to know is that AVR's are rated in a very confusing manner and your receiver is probably putting out only 45-50 watts per channel, all 5 channels driven across the full frequency range of 20hz - 20khz. This is really the only spec that matters - not the hyped up marketing bs of 85 wpc into 1 khz. Despite the actual lower wattage number, this is OK too if you get the right speakers.

So, I would suggest you got back to Best Buy and get some entry level Polk TSI series, to match the Polk sub you aleady have. The TSI speakers are fairly efficient at around 90 db and most important - they are 8 Ohm speakers. 8 ohm speakers are much easier to drive than speakers rated at lower impedences such as 6 or 4 Ohm. Stay away from these! With the small built-in amp in your Yamaha, just stick with 8 Ohm and sensitivity around 90 and you'll be fine. You will be in way to a decent entry level 5.1 system that will be light years ahead of any HTIB.
Do you have a budget for your speaker purchase?

More then likely, the 85 watts you have is more then enough (depends a little on what speakers you end up with however)
Well, my overall budget is rather high. I just can't do it all at once. I want very nice speakers is the main thing. I don't care if it takes me a few years to piece it together. I am looking at the Klipsch RC-52 II, RB-51 II, and RS-42 II speakers. I already have a nice-ish sub, as mentioned so I don't want to buy the full RB-51 home theater system, plus I need to resist the urge to just drop $2300 all at once.
Thank you, this is some good advice. How about if I am actually interested in a step above "entry level"?
As long as the speakers are 8 Ohm and have a sensitivity of 90 db or higher, your good. The Klipsch Reference your looking at are highly efficient and would work great too. Take at look at the impedence and sensitivity specs of the Klipsch models your looking at and you will see what I mean.
What are you thoughts on the power handling though? I did read something somewhere along the line, cannot quote the source so perhaps unreliable, that stated that under-powering your speakers can actually damage them and that you would prefer over-powering them to not getting them enough. The Rear Surrounds (RS-42 II) have a power handling of 75W RMS/300W Peak. Is this not a concern given you were saying my Yamaha AVR is likely only putting out 45-50WPC?
Just for reference on the power handling of the speakers I am looking at:

RS-42 II x2 = 75W RMS/300W Peak
RB-51 II x2 = 75W RMS/300W Peak
RC-52 II x1 = 125W RMS/500W Peak

How do I need to interpret these numbers with respect to the ability of my AVR in powering these speakers?
Correct, too little power will burn out speakers a lot more than too much. Because all amps will generate more than their stated output of watts but with distortion. Its called driving the amplifier into "clipping" and it is this "clipped" power or distorted power that does the damage. Thats the THD figure you spoke about not being clear on - Total Harmonic Distortion. You want this number, relative to the watts, to be below 1%. So the lower the better.

Don't obsess about speaker power ratings. Its the sensitivity and impedence numbers that matter. The Klipsch are very sensitive at 96 db at 1 watt at 1 meter. This means that it will produce 96 db of sound pressure with only 1 watt at 1 meter away when fed a signal. Most of the time speakers are only operating on a couple of watts. Its only complex musical passages or high action scenes in movies where the speakers require more power to be delivered. And they are not all asking for it at the same time. This is why AVR manufacturers can boast big numbers from small power supplies into 5 or 7 speakers. Your Yamaha probably can deliver 85 wpc but only into ANY ONE SPEAKER at a time. And for brief moments when the speaker demands it. To deliver this amount into 5 speakers SIMULTANEOUSLY and CONTINUOUSLY, it probably falls off to 40-50 wpc. Still plenty to handle a set of Klipsch at 96 db efficiency.

If you like the Klipsch get them and don't worry. Also, after you get them, then consider upgrading your receiver to something with more power and your speakers will be ready. Just don't fall for the AVR marketing hype - look at manufacturers that are more honest with lower wattage ratings with ALL CHANNELS DRIVEN CONTINUOUSLY. This is why upper eschelon companies like NAD, Arcam, Cambridge Audio state far less power but at often 2-3 times the cost of a Yamaha. Its real, real power. Even the higher priced models from the mainstream AVR manufacturers like Yamaha will begin to get more honest at a certain price point. Learn to read the numbers! Hope all this helps - I am now at my personal 3 post limit in a thread LOL.
How big is your room ... Sound is about moving air in the end...

and how loud would you like your sound to be...
Movie theater loud..
WAF loud

You have been given good advice so far... you just need to match the numbers up to some context
The only other thing to look at on the receiver you have is whether it has 'Pre-Amp out' jacks. This is important for purposes of adding an amplifier to supplement the receiver's amps. I bought a receiver around Christmas and was assured it had the pre-amp outs to use my existing amp, and it turned out it didn't, so you have to look. I don't know the Yamaha line that well to know if it does. If, with the speakers you want, the receiver gets you all the volume you want without cranking the volume all the way, then you're all set - well, kinda - separate amps are always going to perform better, but sometimes the cost/benefit ratio isn't good.

Power ratings on speakers are next-to-useless. A low powered receiver working too hard will ALWAYS damage speakers before a 1000W brute amp.
This is amazing advice! Thank you all so much, and the AudiogoN Forum community for providing this platform. I may have some other questions about wiring, etc. but I will post them in the proper forums.