so many choices, yet so little to demo

What's a person to do? I'm in the market for new speakers. I go to few mid end stores (within 100 miles) and listen to Monitor Audio, PSB's and Golden Ear. Of course all are different stores. Then I come here and find another 25 brands that aren't carried in my state, no less area.

That being said I surely will not ask for a recommendation and I'm fairly confident that I am not the first to have this issue. And honestly, I don't believe that I ever read a BAD speaker review and comparisons always end up saying the two are really close. Useless to the average person.

My market range is for a 5 speaker HT setup that I will use for audio as well. I have an Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/proc driving an Emotiva UPS-7 (7ch @ 125W each) . My price range is 1700-2500. I feel that I really need to hear them before I lay down the money and knowing the markup need to get a deal. That combo is nearly impossible, deals are usually only on the internet (B- stock, demo, several years old)and the mid end stores want list price and don't carry any of the above.

I know many internet dealers allow returns but there are so many caveats attached. So I don't view that as a solution.

Shall I limit myself to only those brands I can demo in my area? How have you guys/gals addressed this?

Thanks in Advance
TWO speakers is one thing, but you want FIVE that sound good in your room to your ears. on movies AND Beethoven. sorry but i can't help you (but good luck in your search...).
Monitor Audio and PSB both have excellent reputations among audio enthusiasts; Considering your set of circumstances, I'd only consider speakers I could hear first, if not able to audition with my gear, which is ideal but often not achievable. Be careful not to do anything blind, as many of us have done, only to be disappointed with the sound.
You really need some kind of brand loyalty to help you throught this . You have to listen to whatever brands you can and hope that their up models have better qualities you liked in the lower priced one. I am afraid that will have to suffice unless you want to gi with real audiophile type speakers which you can hear at "shows" and certain shops. If you can identify the speaker you like the rest is a matter of affordability.
I've solved your problem for you!! Here is an all-Gallo surround sound system that uses their fabulous CDT tweeter at all positions except subwoofer (of course!). The system is very well-matched timbrally and has a very nice subwoofer for the bottom end and a great center channel for tha all-important dialog track on movies.

And, best of all, Gallo allows for a 60-day in-home trial with NO risk to you - they pay shipping both ways. I'm betting you'll get this in-house and be thrilled:


PS: I have an Emotiva UMC-1 and XPA-5 driving an all-Gallo surround system and it sounds terrific!!
You budget for 5 speakers is low, so if I was you , I wouldn't shy away from B stock or reputable internet vendors. You know that you are not going to get state of the art, but PSB is almost universally acclaimed, and it cetainly sounds pretty good in my friends HT. B stock is often very minor imperfections. I wouldn't stress too much. Go with a good brand that you can afford and that has been reviewed well in the areas that you find impotant.
IME these days local Mid/HiFi shops are willing to make a deal. There are different levels of PSB (Image, Imagine Series); assuming you like them I'll bet the dealer would put a package together if it involves 5 spkrs.
But, pricing will be in the area at the top of your budget.
I think Rlwainwright did it for you. Gallo makes great stuff, and I would buy that even if I couldn't hear it first.
Where are you? Road trip? If you are dropping $2500 it may be worth it?
Look at Audio Advisor: they carry PSB, Monitor Audio and Martin Logan and NHT. Excellent service and you can try at home for 30 days with free ground shipping.
Mate it is vitally important you hear stuff before purchasing.

To hammer home the point I strongly urge you to read the following review:

You very rarely if ever see reviews like that but to be blunt its the truth of the situation not the usual rubbish you see in reviews. The speakers in that review are mine I lent out for the review. I am not beholding to anyone so couldn't care a rats proverbial that one person went ga ga over them and another - well ho hum. Manufacturers would go off the deep end with a review like that, and being lucky enough to live near the the maker, and having a good relationship with him, I can tell you he was none too happy about the negative review, but of course loved the complementary one. The point is not every product is the bees knees for everyone and to avoid disappointment you must listen to gear - it's imperative.

There is no need to go to dealers - contact other Hi Fi enthusiasts on forums like this. In my experience they will be only too happy to have you on over to hear their stuff - I am always happy to do that.

Its the only way, and allocating money to do that, even if it means travel, it a very very important part of what needs to be set aside for any Hi Fi purchase.

I am somewhat in the same boat, although living in the Atlanta area, I have more choices closer than when I was in SW Florida. There are still many brands I hear about here, with 'nothing else comes close for ten times the price' endorsements from posters, that I can't find. I'm not completely opposed to internet direct, b-stock, or used, but would prefer to support local dealers. Ultimately though, even if a speaker of interest can be auditioned live, how it sounds 'there' versus how it will sound in my room is still little more than a guess. The dealers I've been too have setups that bear little or no resemblance to the room I'm using, or the equipment. Given that those factors are of great importance to the end result, isn't anything we buy little more than a shot in the dark until we get it home? Slightly educated shot in the dark, maybe, but still....
Much like any given item you could mention, us as individual buyers have differences in how we prefer to buy.
Pioneer 22 monitors with matching center and sub. Best Buy will occaisonally have 22s for $79 per pair. Sounded great at Newport Show.
So you are buying FIVE speakers for 2500.00?

And you will be using Onkyo/Emotiva to drive said speakers?

First of all let's get this one out of the way. Any system combining HT and music duties must be configured to optimize one or the other. One or the other can sound very good, but whichever one is the "other" will sound only fair.

If HT is more important to you, buy five matching speakers and set them up in the room to enhance the video experience. The pre/pro/7 channel rig will be great for movies, and only marginal for music.

If music is more important and you are set on that budget, buy the best speakers you can for L+R and spend only a fraction on the other three. Then set up the main speakers where they sound best for two channel music (this will NOT be where they sound best for car crashes, off screen dialog, etc....). And ultimately you would want to delegate your signal processing to something other than the Onkyo/Emotiva combo.

So you have some choices to make, and along with those choices will come compromises.

>> Any system combining HT and music duties must be configured to optimize one or the other...<<

I tend to disagree with this line of thinking. Good sound is good sound, period. If a system sounds good for either stereo or HT, it should sound good no matter what. It used to be that one could skimp on the surround and surround back channels because the information being reproduced was of the "ambience" type, crowd noises and such.

That is no longer true with well-mastered modern surround mixes for music. The single most important quality for a surround sound setup is that the speakers have the same or similar timbre or "voicing". This allows for a more coherent and seamless soundfield when the music is panned from left to right and front to back.

Having the same speakers at all positions, except for subwoofer of course, gives you this matching timbre.

And I can promise the original poster (OP) that the all-Gallo system recommended will meet this criteria perfectly. For the money invested it is a very good setup for both home theater and stereo.

I would recommend such an approach to start. If the OP wishes to maximize his stereo listening quality he could trade up to the larger Gallo Classico 3s or 4s later on as the budget allows. And this would still maintain the all-important matching timbre requirement...

The very fact that the L+R speakers should closely flank the screen for the best HT performance prohibits their ability to image correctly for two channel audio. Not to mention that the screen is probably close to the wall, and the speakers should be several feet into the room for best audio performance.

Yeah, it might sound pretty good for both situations. But only one can be ideal.

I stand by that.

Yes, it's true that it can be setup "ideal" for one type of use. But the fact that the OP is working with a $2500 budget would seem to indicate that he is not one who is willing to spend $50,000+ to obtain the "absolute sound".

Too many folks on these type of fora seem to have blinders on when it comes to what is acceptable sound quality for most folks. The fact of the matter is that speakers, electronics, and sources today are worlds better than what was available back in the 70s and 80s.

And it is quite possible to assemble a very credible system for both stereo and HT without spending crazy money....

Good conversation overall. Sometimes I wish Audiogon had a "like" button" for certain comments.

I'll say that the way that civilians might solve this would be by buying online with a return policy - that way you can have them in your home, even at the same time, for comparison.

I also have loved the Gallo for what they are and do, so a worthy choice. Also, I've not heard them, but the brand that has been promoted for this purpose is Aperion. Many reviews out there...
Shakey - speaking purely for myself, my mains are quite distant from my screen, mainly because I made the assumption that anything that 'needed' to sound like it was coming from a central position would come from the center channel, which is in the middle. Maybe naive, but it seems to work for me. In fact, sometimes I wonder if the 'mains' aren't borderline-redundant with so much happening from the center, but I also remember the system pre-center-channel, and the mains were pretty good at making up for there being no center.