Vienna Acoustics setup questions

Hi guys! I’m a frequent lurker round these parts who is assembling his first serious system piece by piece. Let me start by saying that I still wouldn’t consider myself an audiophile, but I do know what I like and have spent a fair bit of time in Home Audio stores here in town, listening. I’m still a little bit intimidated by the jargon and have lots to learn. If I do ask a stupid question and you think, “jeez, have you seen the search button?”, rest assured I have and am using it. I expect that half of this is going to just come out pretty stream-of-consciousness, giving rise to ever more questions.

Having listened to a friend’s Vienna Acoustics Mozarts, and then reading online and doing some listening to the VA line at Tweeter, I just fell in love with those speakers. About six months ago, I bought a Harman Kardon AVR 635 from Harman Direct for my 20’ X 25’ home theater setup(I’ll be primarily listening to music). I figured I’d get speakers used where possible and try to stretch the budget. I was hoping to get Mozarts for the fronts, with VA’s “Center” as my center and Haydns for the rears, with a to-be-named-later sub from REL, Velodyne or similar.

Saved a bit, and this weekend I’m shopping at the usual suspects online looking for my fronts—and found a pretty dadgum perfect set of Beethoven’s for $500 on craigslist right next to where I live. I ran down and grabbed ‘em super quick. So now, I’ve got a really sweet sounding stereo—and I haven’t done squat but plugged them in. Still need to place and tweak. But it’s got me in a bit of a tither, because these speakers were a bit out of my price range and I hadn’t really seriously considered them as part of my setup. What should I do next? Do you think the Harman Kardon is still enough to push them or should I look for an additional stereo amplifier to drive the Beethovens? If so, that’s something I haven’t really given any thought--any suggestions? I’m guessing I should probably move to the Theatro or Maestro for my center channel, but “Center” is still appealing for space considerations—I’d have to get creative to place the larger centers, maybe placing it above the plasma rather than below, and I fear it would just be a bit too overbearing—visually, anyway. I should be able to still use the smaller haydns for surrounds, but surrounds will be last on my list and is currently the least important in my mind. My teenage son plays a bass clarinet and is addicted to super-low wind instruments like the subcontrabass, so I’m thinking a subwoofer. Right now I’ve still got around 700 bucks leftover from my front speaker shopping, but never landed on a sub for my original setup—any specific suggestions there? I’ll be spending 1000-1500 every 4-6 months until I can get my dream setup. Funny, the wife won’t let me spend 4 grand on a complete system, but if I spend lots more over a couple of years it’s a “hobby” and she doesn’t mind a bit. :)
The REL subs match up well with VAs. Why don't you just go 2.1 for video and focus on super 2-channel? The VAs image well enough that you don't need a middle channel.

How many watts does the HK put out? If you add a sub you can do with less from you main speakers. Without a sub you want around 100+ for the VAs. With a sub that can drop below 100W.

Congrats on your good fortune. Enjoy,

I fully agree with Dcstep on this. The Beethovens should not need a center because they image well if set up properly. And, a used Rel sub, say a Strata, seems to add so much more than low frequencies. There's something magical about what a Rel adds to a 2-channel setup. I had a Mozart/Rel setup that I found very satisfying.
I have just one thing to add:

A pair of Beethovens for $500.00???!!!???

You're going to jail, my friend. That's grand larceny. Congratulations!
I know! 500 bucks, and I think the kid thought he was getting the better of me. The funny thing is, the kid I bought the speakers from was WAY more interested in talking about the motorcycle I was helping him buy. These speakers were bought by dad for mom's study, stayed there until he moved out. He made clear he didn't think much of the speakers cause he wanted spine tingling bass (I believe the craigslist ad said "they sound alright, look alright). They sound perfect and have maybe three tiny, shallow scratches on the top of one. I'm ecstatic! Any idea how I can tell what generation of Beethovens these are?

The 2.1 idea is one I've had before, and I think that's what I'll do for now at the very least. I'm goiong to add a REL sub--the range is confusing, though. I'm really not clear at all on the differences between the ranges--Strata, Stadium, etc seem pretty clearly in the same lineup, but what are the Q and R series? I'll be watching TV with these, but music is the more important use. They seem like pretty exclusive subs--hard to find and expensive when they do come up. Ideas on the best match with these speakers would be really appreciated, irrespective of price--but also, the smallest I might get away with ideas, too. :)

The HK receiver I've got is rated @ 75 WPC, but HK is supposed to be pretty conservative in their ratings, and the Beethovens are rated @ 200 W. Nobody's mentioned it, so I guess I'm probably fine with that--nothing to add?

Lastly--cables? All my HDMI and RCA cables are high quality, but the speaker cables are just the most expensive stuff Best Buy had on the way home with my speakers in the van. Any suggestions there?

And Jgiacalo: Thank you for the setup instructions! They've been helpful so far and I'll be referring to them for a very long time. I've got a lot of listening yet to go!

The Beethovens will function ok with the HK, but they'll really come alive with 300 or so high quality watts. (Put that on your future "must have" list). Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8s will work great with the Beethovens. I'd suggest looking for a used set here on A'gon.

Well, whatever else you decide to do from this point on, you can rest easy that $500 for those speakers is just silly good. You seem like you're somewhat following the path I'm on. I have Beethovens and, for about a week, used them with an 85 watt Onkyo receiver. It only lasted a week because the left amp blew on the Onkyo. Make sure your HK can handle a nomimal 4 ohm load that dips into the 2's. Frankly I'd be very surprised if it was up to the task. As a result of this, I got a Sunfire Cinema Grand and used the pre section on the Onkyo. The sound was only marginally better (a lot better than no sound at all though). A bit later I got rid of the Onkyo altogether, and put in an Anthem AVM-20. This made a night and day improvement--simply huge. This setup, with a REL Storm III (in addtion to Bach's for the surround and a Maestro center) is where I am now.

I fully agree with the other recommendations to forget about a center channel for now. Mine is rarely used and is really unecessary. I just got it for the very few SACD's and DVD-A's that I play. I also agree with the REL sub suggestion. I really like the Storm III. To be fair though, I have very little experience with other sub brands.

Of the three next pieces to get, from greatest to least impact on sound I'd rank them, preamp, sub, then amp. Unfortunately, I'm guessing you're going to be in need of an amp first.
Try your HK. If you don't fry it, then you'll be ok until funds re-accumlate in your bank account. Otherwise, look for a used Bryston that'll deliver 200 watts into 4 ohms. Stay away from tubes and go for relatively high power and high damping factors, which the VAs really like.

wow I can't believe the deal you got on your Beethovens...and I think I need a drink after considering how much more I spent ;)

As others have said, the speakers do image well so you can get away with no center channel for a while if you can dial these in properly.

I have been running my Beethovens off an integrated amp and monoblocks, so i can't comment on trying to power these off your HK. Let your ears tell you if you like it or not.

I have run both Analysis Plus Oval 9 and Zu Wax for speaker cables. I liked the Analysis Plus cables much better.

Good luck and keep us updated on what you do...