Can we get a decent set of 5.1 speakers for the Onkyo TX-SR500 receiver for <$200?
December 27, 2004 4:12 PM   Subscribe

We are looking to buy a set of 5.1 speakers for this receiver, but we're pretty clueless. Can we get something decent for around $200?
posted by muckster to Shopping (17 answers total)
Tannoy makes a satellite-style 5.1 system available here. I have not listened to this particular product but it has gotten some good reviews, at least near this price point.
posted by one at 5:06 PM on December 27, 2004

No. Unless you like $35 speakers.

The big problem with surround setups is that your money is being stretched three times as thin. Which means you need to spend three times the money to get comparable sound to stereo speakers.

$200 is fine for a low-end stereo setup, but to get the same quality you'll need to spend about $600 on a 5.1 system.
posted by Jairus at 5:09 PM on December 27, 2004

Cnet seemed to love these speakers, and the user reviews are very positive as well. I remember reading this review a couple of years ago and being surprised at Cnet's positivity for such an inexpensive set of speakers...especially considering how nitpicky they can be.
posted by ssmug at 5:50 PM on December 27, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers--it makes sense that $200 is at the very low end. Perhaps if I rephrased the question: how much *should* we spend, minimum, on something decent? Please keep the recommendations coming, even if they're for more than what I budgeted.
posted by muckster at 6:49 PM on December 27, 2004

you could spend years investigating home theater audio. and, as with so many things, you will probably adjust more-or-less to whatever you buy. but, if you're really looking to buy nice speaks for a nice home theater that, likewise, are a great value, perhaps the best value in high-quality home-audio, consider the paradigm performance series. but there's no way to get the full setup for 200 bucks. so i would recommend that you grow your system, bit-by-bit. your first 200 investment will buy you a nice set of titans up front. from there, buy a sub-woofer, surrounds and a center, as you can afford them. this will provide you with a system that will, very soon, be the envy of your friends... you just won't have it tomorrow.
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:07 PM on December 27, 2004

1. go to some stores. just to get some decent treatment and halfway non-stupid salespeople, you might have to go to a boston acoustics or cambridge soundworks or tweeter etc., etc. rather than a department store or fast-food-electronics store.

2. if the salespeople seem reasonably intelligent, fine, but don't pay too much attention to what they are trying to sell you on.

3. listen to as many products you can in your price range. I mean, really listen... movies, music, concentrate on whatever your main purpose is. don't overthink it, just see what sounds good and things like quality, warranty, brand reputation are important too.


would I pay $200 for a set of 5.1 speakers? no. would I pay $200 for a set of stereo speakers? again, no. but my tastes and sensitivities may be different than yours; which is not to say that one way or the other is any better or worse: rather say that it's different.

the speakers I have are not cheap and yet a lot of people dislike or even hate them; but I love the way they sound. it's my choice and my ears, not theirs. go fig.

having a budget is a perfectly fine way to go about it, no one can really tell you what sounds good. I can't, reviews sites can't.

what sounds good to you is what is good for you. this is really all that counts.
posted by dorian at 7:08 PM on December 27, 2004

I'd echo what is being said here, and add that it will depend on how picky you are about audio. You could easily spend $200 (or much, much more) on EACH speaker, but it sounds like that would be overkill. You can try posting this same question over on Home Theater Forum, where some real gearheads can offer some advice on this or any other home theater topic.
posted by robbie01 at 7:47 PM on December 27, 2004

What dorian said.

If you're serious about getting some good speakers, do your research. I bought several "stereo review"-type magazines, and really pored over them. Then I went to a couple different a/v stores, armed with an array of CDs and DVDs to test the speakers out. Bring stuff that you know very well, so you'll really be able to discern small differences. And try to bring a range of stuff: quiet, loud, brassy, delicate, high-pitched, bass-y, etc.

Also, take measurements of your listening/viewing room and work out where your speakers would go. This can and should affect which ones you buy, as certain speakers sound better in certain spaces.

One mo' thing: the new rage in home theater is 6.1 sound, with the additional speaker being "Rear Center." You may want to look into that, if you're going whole-hog on this thing.

Prices will vary widely, depending on your wants and needs, but I'd figure $400 as a bare minimum.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:07 PM on December 27, 2004

The answer is yes.

More specifically, you are looking in the wrong stores, for the wrong item. If you want high-end acoustic nirvana and go to the stereo department, you'll see all the names that have already been thrown out -- Boston Acoustics, etc. But you don't have that kind of cash.

If you want to put your audio system together piecemeal, you might be able to afford a single "nice" speaker. I wouldn't want to listen to any Beatles or Jimi Hendrix on it, though (would you like to listen to the guitar, or the singing?)

I suggest you look into high-end computer speaker systems if you really want bang-for-your-buck. Logitech makes great, great speakers. In your price range, the Logitech Z-5300e 5.1 system is probably the best you'll find. Here's a review. They're THX certified. For another ~$100, you can get the Z-5500's, which are simply beasts. Here's a review of the 5500, which is the same series as the 5300, but the higher-power version with built-in decoder.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:24 PM on December 27, 2004

Personally, I'd spend the money on two front speakers, and then get more speakers later when I could afford it.

Mind you, I wouldn't personally buy $200 speakers. For casual PC/etc use, I'd get a cheap $75 2.1 setup -- but for using with a nice Onkyo receiver, I'd save up and get some quality speakers.
posted by Jairus at 12:42 AM on December 28, 2004

Audiophiles probably consider this pretty crappy advice, but unless you're really into audio quality, play with the EQ regularly, etc you can do pretty well with a piecemeal system and used goods.

Used is good, EQ is bad.

It was been suggested already, but it is really a good idea to get a good pair for stereo listening and use anything you can cobble together for surrounds. Skip the centre and sub until you can afford them.

The only suggestion in here that I really object to strongly is the idea that PC speakers are anything but garbage. Just in case that wasn't clear: PC speakers are garbage. Regardless, PC speakers are irrelevant because you already have a receiver. It would be stupid to buy amplified PC speakers now...

This guy on redflagdeals seems to agree with me a lot about audio, and those discussions are right on topic.
posted by Chuckles at 3:24 AM on December 28, 2004

Buy two speakers. Two good speakers.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:07 AM on December 28, 2004

Two good bookshelf speakers can probably be had for $300. There's even a market for used speakers (although I'm not sure latent defects can be detected easily).

And stay away from malls and white vans.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:23 AM on December 28, 2004

If you *are* going to buy all 5 (or say 4 and hold off on the floor rumbling bass for the time being), and your use will be movies first, stereo second, I'd buy a good center channel speaker.

The center channel is the place where all of the "look how many speakers we crammed into this box!" speakers fall woefully short. And it will make you crazy when watching movies -- the center channel is where all the voices come from, and so you'll constantly be turning it up to hear the talking during the quiet parts, and then racing to find the remote during the car chases.
posted by zpousman at 7:10 AM on December 28, 2004

ParisParamus: Two good bookshelf speakers can probably be had for $300. There's even a market for used speakers (although I'm not sure latent defects can be detected easily).

What latent defects are you thinking of? Speakers are very simple devices. If the voice coil has been overheated to the point of failure you will be able to hear it (tap the cone and listen for the sound of rustling wires). The surround will eventually crack from age, that isn't really a latent defect... Nothing much can go wrong apart from cosmetics.

zpousman: If you *are* going to buy all 5 (or say 4 and hold off on the floor rumbling bass for the time being), and your use will be movies first, stereo second, I'd buy a good center channel speaker.

Movies first, stereo second?

Sad... So sad...
posted by Chuckles at 1:08 PM on December 28, 2004

But with almost any digital receiver, you can push the center channel back into the front L and R speakers. It's usually labeled as a phantom center.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2004

For what it's worth, this question came just as I began researching my purchase of a new set of satellites with sub. After seeing dozens of inexpensive subs in the $175-$300+ range (JBL, Acoustic Research, Yamaha and on up) I found numerous usenet and posts (1 , 2) touting the Dayton Loudspeaker 100w 10" sub sold by Parts Express for $99.99. It's a kit, but it seems to come pre-assembled, and apparently Parts Express provides support/service. I actually haven't seen a single post discrediting the thing (disclaimer: even though this seems like an ad, I don't work for or with Parts Express, Dayton Loudspeaker(/Audio?) or any other party mentioned here. I have absolutely nothing to do with them - don't even own a product yet. Just posting this as a timesaver for others).
posted by Sinner at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2004

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