Audio Equipment and Home Theater Audio : Question about the positioning of speakers.

Question about the positioning of speakers.

My parents are setting up a home theater system and asked for my help. Only I know a ton about video, and not so much with audio.

The room with the TV is not very big, and has furniture in it that would block sound from some directions if the speakers were on the floor. They went to Best Buy to ask questions (a bad idea if you ask me,) and they saw speakers that they could put in the ceiling. I mean literally in the ceiling with nothing protruding. I would think this would not be a good idea, but I have no clue. Our ceilings are about 10 ft high. It seems like there wouldn't be much directionality to the sound. They said they seemed to sound fine at Best Buy, but I'm sure anything would sound fine at Best Buy; their rooms are probably finely acoustically tuned.

I guess the two other options would be speakers that are sunk into the wall, or speakers that hang from the ceiling. What would be the best option?

Also, what brand would you recommend? They have been subsisting on TV speakers, so I'm sure anything would sound better to them, I just don't want them to pay all this money for an inferior setup.

"My name is Buck, and I'm here to party!"
-Kill Bill Television edit

Re: Question about the positioning of speakers.

Why would going to best buy be a bad idea? They don't strong arm you or trick you into buying junk, they aren't selling out of the back of a van somewhere and if a customer is unhappy and feels tricked, they will lose them as customers so it is in their best interest to earn their loyalty. If they aren't happy they can return what they buy...

If you knew about audio and had insight into internet direct brands, you could order some great stuff for a good price, but without hearing or seeing you are basically just going off of someone else's reviews and feedback. Not to mention the difficulty of returning or exchanging via the internet.

Things to consider when buying audio:

Source, aesthetics, size, type of listening, budget. All speaker types have advantages and disadvantages, and it is all relative. Many people love their Bose setup, as they have nothing to compare it to or simply believe in their hearts and minds that Bose makes quality products. In wall/in ceiling speakers offer an advantage to your parents living room because of their size and location, as well as the furniture placement they already have. If I were going to have in wall/in ceiling speakers, I would get speakercraft or martinlogan models. Negatively, in wall/in ceiling speakers are more expensive than a satellite or bookshelf speaker of similar quality, meaning you are overpaying for the aesthetic/room design aspect. Also, the range of those speakers (bookshelf, on wall and in-wall) are all less than that of a floor standing speaker. The tradeoff there is you have a large couple of speakers to add to a room and sometimes the WAF (wife acceptance factor) is low on those.

I would recommend on floor standing first, bookshelf second, on wall third, in wall fourth, solely based on price. You pay more for a similar featured in wall than an on wall, but again, it is about the look.

Don't underspend on the receiver, don't underspend on the subwoofer, don't overspend on cabling (in wall rated 16 gauge is good enough for pretty much any job).

What is their budget? Are they handy enough to install the speakers themselves, or will it be done professionally?

If their budget is 7K, I would get MartinLogan Fresco i on wall speakers for the front three, MartinLogan Vignette on wall speakers for 4 and 5, a MartinLogan Dynamo subwoofer and a middle to upper tier Denon or Pioneer Elite receiver. If their budget is less than that, you could replace the Vignettes with Ticket in walls, or keep cutting by going to speakercraft models. If their budget is half of that, look at a klipsch quintet satellite 5 speaker set, or the aforementioned speakercraft in walls. As you drop down in pricepoint with receivers, you lose power, audio quality and connectivity. As cheap as I would go would be the Pioneer 1019 ($500), though you and they would be amazed at the sound coming from a better receiver (not even talking about separates at this point). As for the subwoofer, the Dynamo is the best sub for the price. If $700 is shockingly expensive, a klipsch will be an alright option (though a much much larger footprint). If you are thinking "7 grand for audio, is this guy nuts?"... then I wouldn't be too worried about them getting ripped off. Other than Bose, nothing Best Buy sells for speakers are a ripoff.

If you avoid Bose, you won't get ripped off. Like all other things in this world, you pay a premium for build quality and aesthetics. Only the person paying can put a price on that benefit...

Re: Question about the positioning of speakers.

Take a look at the "house brand" in-wall speakers at Parts Express or MCM. I have no personal experience of them, but some of their other no-name speakers are pretty good. Check the reviews at PE and MCM, and online elsewhere. (AVSforum.com is a good site for home theater stuff.)

If they'd rather go with a "home theater in a box" set of speakers, look at the Energy Take 5 (or whatever number it is now). Those were very favourably rated in reviews (and by owners) as great value for money.

If there's someplace locally that has a heap of discount speakers, google what they have. Be cautious, because "white van" quality speakers aren't only sold in parking lots.
If you're looking at used speakers (there's some amazing deals at thrift stores these days), watch for rotten surrounds on the woofers. (The surround is the flexible ring that seals around the cardboard cone. Some are made from a sort of compressed foam, and they become brittle with age.)

Re: Question about the positioning of speakers.

Personally, I'm against the idea of altering a home to accommodate technology because all technology eventually becomes outdated. But for your parents, in-ceiling speakers will work just fine. I wouldn't worry too much about directionals or acoustics for rear speakers, but I would recommend they get external speakers for the fronts and center.
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