Q I am interested in having very good speakers in a family room that will soon need to be "toddler-friendly."
The room is 13 by 22 feet with a cathedral ceiling. I plan on a wall-mounted 70- to 80-inch flat-screen TV with a wall-mounted center channel and a subwoofer hidden somewhere. I am evaluating speakers with the intent of getting a 5.1 system. The challenge is the main speakers. With a $2,000 to $3,000 budget for the mains, I see three options: in-wall, wall mounted, floor speakers with some sort of gate to avoid an active little boy from wanting to pull over the speakers, or elevating the mains out of the little guy's reach.
We typically play music at a low volume, but want BIG SOUND for movie night, for under $5,000 total.
--T.B., Derry, N.H.
A Go with wall-mount speakers. As for elevating the mains -- forget it! Besides being a difficult proposition, most speakers that are designed for floor placement are engineered to use reflections from the floor to enhance the bass response. If you take them off the floor they won't sound right.
The following is what I would do if it were in your situation, spending my own money. You have a big room and if you want big sound, you have to move big air, which means getting the best, biggest speakers you can.
Get three GoldenEar SuperSat 60s, one each for left / center / right, for $2,400 total. You could also get three SuperSat 50s for $1,500 total, but by your own admission you want big sound, so you want to go as big as you can. See them at www.goldenear.com/products/supersat-series.
Any of the SuperSats will suffice for surrounds, from the $249/each SuperSat 3s to the $799/each SuperSat 60s. Personally, I do not think you need to go any bigger than the SuperSat 50s for $499 each. The $249 each SuperSat 3s are great also, and help reach your budget, so I will specify those here.
The best subwoofer for your situation is the GoldenEar ForceField 5 for $999. There are some decent, very inexpensive subs available which could save you money, like the 12-inch powered subwoofer from Monoprice for under $150, or you could get a smaller sub from GoldenEar. Given your desires, the room size and cathedral ceiling, I think getting the best sub is worthwhile.
You could get away with a receiver to power your system, but I would rather see you get a separate amplifier and preamplifier. The amplifiers in receivers are not as potent as their specifications would lead you to believe, because they are usually measured with only one or two channels driven. The Emotiva UPA-500 amplifier is only $349 and can be seen at http://shop.emotiva.com/collections/amplifiers/products/upa500
Connect the amp to the $549 Outlaw Audio 975 processor at http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/975.html to complete the setup for $900 total, which is only $200 more than a good receiver would cost you. It's more powerful and more flexible, too.
This puts you between $4,000 and $5,000, depending on the subwoofer chosen. A great system for anyone with a smaller rooms and lower budget is 5 SuperSat 3s, a less expensive subwoofer, and a $400 receiver like the Marantz NR-1403, coming in at less than $2,200 complete.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.