Surround sound for the ignorant

Surround sound for the ignorant

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ILikeCake

Original Poster:

34 posts

83 months

Saturday 19th January
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I'd like to venture into surround sound. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about hi fi equipment, and am after some advice. To the uninitiated there are a whole lot of acronyms and options to navigate through! Can I ask for help from the Pistonheads experts?...

On sound quality. I wouldn't class me as an audiophile, just looking to improve films and games, but at the same time don't want to get something I'll grow out of too quickly. I am tempted by this speaker set by Cambridge Audio:

https://www.richersounds.com/tv-home-cinema/speake...

But am I buying a 'name'? Would something like this from JBL be just as good?

https://www.richersounds.com/tv-home-cinema/speake...

Note that the wife has demanded small speakers. rolleyes

My second uncertainty is about speaker placement. The TV is in one half on an open plan room. The screen will be offset from the centre between speakers. I've photoshopped where the speakers will go in the pics below. Will it still 'work' with these placements?






And finally. Do wireless systems work well? This seems to tick a lot of boxes:

https://www.richersounds.com/polk-max-sr.html

rog007

4,967 posts

163 months

Saturday 19th January
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I’d start with setting your budget, as that’s usually a constraint.

Then I’d set on the size of speakers, as it’s a constraint you’ve mentioned.

I’d then look at reviews and then finally try and get a listen.

I’m no expert, just an enthusiast, but only observation I’d make is the height of your speakers on your mock up; probably too high to get the best out of them. Mine are head height (when sitting), and effect is stunning.

Black_S3

1,013 posts

127 months

Saturday 19th January
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I've been lead to believe in a layout like that you are better off with a soundbar?

MrOrange

1,597 posts

192 months

Sunday 20th January
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Black_S3 said:
I've been lead to believe in a layout like that you are better off with a soundbar?
With wireless sub-bass. A few hundred quid should do it.

RogerDodger

802 posts

33 months

Sunday 20th January
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Black_S3 said:
I've been lead to believe in a layout like that you are better off with a soundbar?
No way Jose !

A soundbar will never compete with true speaker separation and real surrounds.

Having your TV offset like that is quite common in UK houses. Centre speaker with the TV, left and rights where you have indicated. Keep the rears quite high if they are going to be near you so that they are not too easy to pinpoint. Setup the sound levels with the test tones so that the front speaker imbalance is corrected, and you are good to go.

You have not drawn a centre speaker on the photos. You absolutely need one. And it needs to be down by (under) the TV.

Edited by RogerDodger on Sunday 20th January 10:03

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jas xjr

11,078 posts

178 months

Sunday 20th January
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There are many experts on pH.i am not one of them. No matter how sophisticated a soundbar is,it can never really do rears. Better than the speakers the TV will have but that's still not as good as a 5.1 or 7.1.
How do you have the speakers set up in your car? As we do not sit right in the middle? I have adjusted my settings to allow for this. Same for your setup, I would imagine.
Richer sounds might be able to arrange a demo for you .
Good luck with whatever you decide,it is worth the effort smile

ThunderSpook

2,446 posts

150 months

Sunday 20th January
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The front speakers want to be closer to eye level rather than up high. It’s fine to put the rears up high.

An unfortunate reality is that generally the smaller the speaker the more money you will need to spend to get good sound.

I have the Bose system now after many years of bad small speakers (not allowed big speakers any more) and for small speakers they are brilliant.

Black_S3

1,013 posts

127 months

Sunday 20th January
quotequote all
jas xjr said:
There are many experts on pH.i am not one of them. No matter how sophisticated a soundbar is,it can never really do rears. Better than the speakers the TV will have but that's still not as good as a 5.1 or 7.1.
How do you have the speakers set up in your car? As we do not sit right in the middle? I have adjusted my settings to allow for this. Same for your setup, I would imagine.
Richer sounds might be able to arrange a demo for you .
Good luck with whatever you decide,it is worth the effort smile
This is true that a sound bar will never be as good but what I kept getting told was it will be better than poorly placed surround speakers.

Cars are a bit different as sound engineers are involved in the design, they don’t just plonk a speaker in the door card and hope these days...

RogerDodger

802 posts

33 months

Sunday 20th January
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Whoever told you that just hasn't compared badly placed rear surrounds to no rear surrounds at all. There just isn't a comparison. No matter how much a soundbar might try to bounce sound off the rear walls to simulate surround:

- the sound levels would have to be high for it to work
- speaker placement, rear wall distance, and ceiling height would have to be inch perfect
- you are still going to hear the rear sounds coming from the front of the room.

I'd argue the same with seperate left and rights. Even offset, you get a wide stereo sound stage that only the really best soundbars can get close to emulating . Truth be told, the centre speaker does the vast majority of the work. Put that where it belongs and the rest is easily tunable.

OP - if you want to go down the micro system, bear in mind that Bose acoustimass can be purchased very very cheaply used on ebay. If you are forced to have your fronts up high, angle them down towards you. I've set a system up where ceiling speakers drop down, angled at the listener, and it works brilliantly (that was with a centre up there too) . In an ideal world you have everything at ear level, but that's not always possible.

MrOrange

1,597 posts

192 months

Sunday 20th January
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jas xjr said:
No matter how sophisticated a soundbar is,it can never really do rears.
Some soundbars have rear speakers, usually wireless which wins 1,000 wifey points. E.g https://www.richersounds.com/promotions/2018-sale-...

Black_S3

1,013 posts

127 months

Sunday 20th January
quotequote all
RogerDodger said:
Whoever told you that just hasn't compared badly placed rear surrounds to no rear surrounds at all. There just isn't a comparison. No matter how much a soundbar might try to bounce sound off the rear walls to simulate surround:

- the sound levels would have to be high for it to work
- speaker placement, rear wall distance, and ceiling height would have to be inch perfect
- you are still going to hear the rear sounds coming from the front of the room.
The person selling me it seemed plausible in saying if it’s a compromised setup it’s better to make the comprise with what fits best rather than buy the 7.1 surround have to place speakers poorly . That said I’d given him a similar brief to the OPs that I wasn’t wanting to spend a fortune and was initially looking at one of the Panasonic £200 sets they sell in currys. For me a fairly cheap Roth audio bar with sub works fine but I get that many who really know their stuff would see it as rubbish.

RogerDodger

802 posts

33 months

Sunday 20th January
quotequote all
Black_S3 said:
The person selling me it seemed plausible in saying if it’s a compromised setup it’s better to make the comprise with what fits best rather than buy the 7.1 surround have to place speakers poorly . That said I’d given him a similar brief to the OPs that I wasn’t wanting to spend a fortune and was initially looking at one of the Panasonic £200 sets they sell in currys. For me a fairly cheap Roth audio bar with sub works fine but I get that many who really know their stuff would see it as rubbish.
I'm not seeing it as rubbish. Different people have different needs. I'm simply saying soundbar just doesn't compare with surrounds.

A soundbar with surrounds - now you are getting somewhere, as posted 2 posts above. I'd not heard of soundbars with surrounds until now.

Up till now, soundbars I've seen have L,R C in them, and if you get spendy, rears (in teh same soundbar) that are supposed to bounce off the rear/side walls.

MrOrange

1,597 posts

192 months

Sunday 20th January
quotequote all
RogerDodger said:
Up till now, soundbars I've seen have L,R C in them, and if you get spendy, rears (in teh same soundbar) that are supposed to bounce off the rear/side walls.
Whilst you undoubtedly get better performance using a fully-wired, multibox solution it strike me that a huge amount of tech investment is going into home/wife-friendly setups and echoing the rest of the audio-space will likely trump conventional amps, wires and veneered boxes.

This is what £750 gets you today https://www.nakamichi-usa.com/shockwafe-pro-71/

Fermit and Sexy Sarah

5,354 posts

39 months

Monday 21st January
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MrOrange said:
RogerDodger said:
Up till now, soundbars I've seen have L,R C in them, and if you get spendy, rears (in teh same soundbar) that are supposed to bounce off the rear/side walls.
Whilst you undoubtedly get better performance using a fully-wired, multibox solution it strike me that a huge amount of tech investment is going into home/wife-friendly setups and echoing the rest of the audio-space will likely trump conventional amps, wires and veneered boxes.

This is what £750 gets you today https://www.nakamichi-usa.com/shockwafe-pro-71/
That looks great, I'll consider one of these for out the back when done. Got a real liking for Nakamichi, had one of these in my old 172 Cup


ILikeCake

Original Poster:

34 posts

83 months

Monday 21st January
quotequote all
Thanks for the advice.

Budget is a max of £750, but would prefer to spend less.

Nakamichi one looks great but they don't seem to have UK stockists.

Polk soundbar + rears was looking a favourite. Unfortunately not many UK reviews and there are mixed opinions from over the pond.

I've now gone full circle back to the Cambridge Audio Minx. Having the front speakers mounted lower on the wall was an instant no from wifey. Would lining them up along the bottom of the TV stand work?

justin220

3,898 posts

143 months

Monday 21st January
quotequote all
Most surround sound systems these days come with a mic to plug in and perform a set up assist.

That usually helps significantly with tweaking the speakers to suit your listening position. Rather than just plonking speakers where suitable and hoping for the best

Shuvi McTupya

21,852 posts

186 months

Monday 21st January
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How about doing a little rearranging and putting the TV in the window bay, that would solve a few problems.

ILikeCake

Original Poster:

34 posts

83 months

Monday 21st January
quotequote all
Shuvi McTupya said:
How about doing a little rearranging and putting the TV in the window bay, that would solve a few problems.
Nah I don't want to block up the window. Plus power/cable is where the TV currently is.

Dan_1981

13,704 posts

138 months

Monday 21st January
quotequote all
I've got an earlier version of this.

https://www.richersounds.com/yamaha-ysp2700-blk.ht...


It's expensive for a soundbar / sub combo, and it will never be as good as my old separates - however for a soundbar it's pretty damn good. Quality is 2nd to none, it tried really hard to bounce sound around - however your window won't help on that front.

Worth a try - decent price at the moment too

Keyser Soze

18,400 posts

130 months

Monday 21st January
quotequote all
It really depends what you are looking for as well

Do you REALLY want surround sound? Or just looking to beef up the sound from the TV a bit?

My mate has surround sound but its badly setup so when watching footy for instance just get constant crowd noise from the rear, makes for a very disconcerting viewing experience

If you just want to beef up a good soundbar will be fine and you'll be amazed at the difference it makes to films etc