HT speakers, sub, receiver/separates for $3500?

I initiated a thread several monts ago relating to recommendations for a modest HT system for a friend. His budget was intitially $2k, but I think I have him up to the $3k-3.5K range. My thoughts are to get speakers, a sub, and either a receiver or a pre/pro & amp for now, and let him worry about the CD and/or DVD player later as finances allow (what he has now is adequate, though not great).

Your collective prior recommendations were very much appreciated, but for some reason, I cannot recall that thread. Still, I think I retained most of the info in my noggin. ;^] Given that my friend would prefer to buy new gear from a local dealer, here are some of the brands that we have available to audition and buy.

For speakers, my friend is a big Maggie fan of old, so the MMG's are on our short list (as are the MMG C and MMG W's), but he has concerns about his toddler damaging them. I do too, but IMHO, if a kid wants to damage a speaker, he will, and if he learns to stay away (or is supervised), it shouldn't be a great threat. But, the WAF may be the trump card, and she likes smaller speakers. He wants floorstanders for up front. Other brands we have are NHT (dealer has a pair of demo ST-4's), Paradigm, Klipsch, Totem (Arro's should make the wife happy!), and Meadowlark. There are a few others, but I would call these the front runners.

For electronics, I may be able to talk him into Outlaw separates, and we may be able to find a deal on a used Rotel RSP-1066 and an adequate 5-channel amp to pair it with. But if we go the receiver route, the brands that I am most hopeful will fit the bill include Denon, Rotel, Sherwood Newcastle and NAD.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, would be appreciated. We are going to go on our audition spree next Wednesday.

Thanks in advance, Tom.
The MMG W's shouldnt be a problem once he has them installed. make sure he goes with a color that matches his walls. when not in use the swing to the wall and might not be as much temptation as a box speaker. MMG's might be a problem cause the kid could easily get at them. Mount the MMGw's about 2 feet up, and keep em folded in, the kid may not even notice them. The WAF on these is pretty decent too. They dont take alot of space, come in a variety of colors, and lay flat on the wall unless he is using them.

If yer lookin at recievers, i would go Denon 3805. Problem is if he wants to use the maggies he needs something that can hit a 4 ohm load, so he WILL have to get an seperate amplifier. Depending if he wants 5.1 or 7.1 he could always use the extra amps in the denon to power another zone.

Outlaw seperates would probably fit the bill better.

The good thing about the MMW/MMC combo is a 5 speaker set runs you less than 1k. That leaves roughly 2.5k for the subwoofer and front end.
If he is happy with 5.1 he can score a killer deal on used 5.1 pre/pro's.

This is actually VERY similar to where im heading with my livingroom system. I already have a denon 3805 and cannot say enough about it, the only gripe i have is the remote is kinda flaky sometimes and it cannot handle a 4 ohm load. Im looking for a good cheap 5 channel amp myself. Then im gonna start working on getting the MMGw/MMGc speakers.

One of the reasons im going this route myself is i plan to have a totally seperate 2 channel setup in the same room. Once i start working on accoustic treatments the MMGw's will look like another accoustical treatment instead of a seperate system. Stealthy with great sound.

I dont have a wife or even a girlfriend for that matter, but i dont want my place looking like an electronic superstore.

I thought that you were engaged; bought a house; had to sell your system to pay for the house; etc. My apologies if I missed the latest chapter and also, if I am bringing up potentially bad memories for you. You still do tatoos for beer, if I ever make it to Denver ... right?

Regards, Rich
Paradigms and Rotel if this is primarily a HT system. I don't think you can do better for the money.
Heh. Engaged yes, bought a house yes, then the girly left.

Did'nt sell the system for the house tho, had to sell the rig cause i had a roomate who never came up with his rent a while back and at the end of the lease i had already paid my part of the rent, rent at a house i was gonna rent, and sec deposit. So i couldnt pay his last month of rent, and they evicted us and really took us to the cleaners. he diddnt have a job so they only went after me. Ended up selling everything but my sources, about 7k of gear for 2,500. It was a poorly planned system anyways. Next one will be much better. ;)

So i bought a house, aint gotno girl (nothing steady, just occaasional fun with the occasional cutie ;) got a new roomate, and working on building the system back up! :)

Couldnt be happier! =)
Tom, you should add the Bohlender Graebener Radia Z Series to the list. The Z7 are fairly compact floorstanders that use the fast and transparent Neo3PDR tweeters. Not as compact as the Totem Arros. They are beautifully finished in "real wood veneer" (but not mirror matched) and should get high WAF. They are fairly efficient 4 ohms 88dB.
There's a new mostly positive review in The Absolute Sound (August-September 2004) by Neil Gader. The review is quite accurate. You can't go wrong for the street price of $525-$600 a pair. The Z5 LCR Center should go for less than $300. They mate well with Denon. I don't recommend their Z-Sub though. The money would be better spent by getting 2 Rocket ELT Subs from These ELT subs look like they were designed to match the BG Z7.
I got my 5.2 system for under $1,900 and couldn't be more pleased.
Are there any receivers that can handle a 4 ohm load? I was leaning towards the Denon 3805, but if it can't handle a 4 ohm load, that might rule it out. The Maggies do seem like a phenomenal value, but I certainly want to make sure that we are feeding them properly. It may be that separates is the way to go. While Outlaw certainly has great bang for the buck, a used RSP-1066 with a 5-channel amp (say, Rotel or Adcom) would be within our price range if we went with the Maggies.

Those AC123 subs look pretty nice, too.

Thanks for the advice.
Okay, here are the preliminary results of our quest for the $3,500 HT system. My friend is more into 2-channel music, but wants to have HT capabilities, so we spent most of our time listening to the various components in stereo configuration (as opposed to full 5.1 setups).

He wanted to buy new, so we decided fairly early on to go with a receiver, as opposed to separates. Going in, the 3805 was a front-runner, but after comparing it to the Rotel RSX-1056, I was amazed at how noticeable of an improvement the Rotel was over the Denon. We were quite happy with just 5 channels of amplification, as he has no desire, currently, to go the 6.1 or 7.1 route, and he is not majorly concerned with having his HT setup just so (again, he is mostly concerned with 2-channel audio), so the auto-calibrate features of the Denon, while slick as heck, weren't an overwhelmingly compelling feature. For straight up 2-channel sound, the Rotel really does have an edge over the Denon, despite its much lower power rating (75w, versus 120w for the 3805). The Rotel was more clear, had greater instrument separation, and created more a realistic soundstage. Instruments sounded more true and convincing. Really quite impressive, and while I expected the Rotel to have a slight edge, this was very noticeable with the NHT ST-4's we were auditioning. So, the Rotel became a sure thing, besting not only the Denon, but Yamaha and Marantz receivers that we listened to. We also considered, but were not able to audition, the Cambridge Audio receiver.

On the speaker front, we auditioned the Magnepan MG12, which were the closest thing that the dealer had to the factory direct MMG's. In addition to the child-damage factor, the WAF, and the room placement issues, I just was not very impressed with the sound of the Maggies compared to the competition. I do like Maggies (and Martin Logans, and Quads), but with a Rotel receiver, and with the kind of music my friend prefers (mostly rock), it wasn't a match made in heaven. We also listened to multiple models from Paradigm, Klipsch, and B&W, but these failed to make our short list. The final four came down to the above-mentioned NHT ST-4's, Totem Arro's, Meadowlark Swifts, and a model from Krix (forget the name). After much thought and further discussion (and a comment from my friend's wife that the Swifts were "ugly"), it came down to the ST-4's or the Arro's. The ST-4's had the edge in instrument separation, low frequency reproduction, and the ability to play loudly. The Arro's had much better soundstage/imaging, sounded more refined, and sounded good at low, moderate, or louder volumes (the NHT's did seem to need to be pushed to a moderate volume before they sounded REALLY good). The Arro's did manage to fart out on us a bit when we cranked them up, but the older Cambridge Audio integrated driving it was almost all the way up, and may have been contributing. We decided, though, that if we went with the Arro's, we'd need a sub for sure (for higher volumes only, as the Arro's have very convincing bass at lower volumes, especially considering their size). The NHT's could probably benefit from a sub, but they had fairly respectable low end output even without one, and kept their composure even when driven fairly hard.

Ultimately, I would prefer the Rotel with the Arro's (and Dreamcatcher center and surrounds), paired with a quality, musical subwoofer, but depending on the price of the sub, this would put us just beyond our price range. Those Arro's are just a phenomenal speaker, and they are so small that they can really disapper. Not to mention the fact that they will get everyone's jaw to hit the floor when they realize that all that sound is coming out of such a petite speaker. However, I must also say that the NHT ST-4's are an extremely impressive speaker. It soundly trounced the B&W, Paradigm, Klipsh, and Maggies, and surpassed the Meadowlark Swifts in many regards. I would have liked to have heard it straight up against the Krix, as I think that it would have been close (with the ST-4's winning narrowly).

So, I am not sure which route my friend is going to go, but from what I heard, I can recommend the RSX-1056 to anyone looking for a multi-channel receiver (but doesn't need 7.1), and the NHT's and Totem Arro's are outstanding choices IMHO in the @ $1,000 floorstanding speaker category.