Surround Serious Ears With Sound
January 3, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

AudiophileFilter: Building a 7.1 monitoring system in a seminar room, for very discerning listeners. My question is mostly about powered monitor speakers, and it's long.

I'm charged with designing a 7.1 surround audio (and video) system for a large seminar room. The room is approximately 35 x 15 feet, so about 500 square feet, with carpet, a dropped acoustic tile ceiling (still high, about 10 feet), and two large recessed windows. Its walls are treated with soundproofing material, but it's not especially good or absorbent and there are a lot of hard surfaces due to whiteboards and windows.

It gets more complicated: the users of this room include mostly musicians and composers. Very close analytical listening to new experimental music is a common activity in the room, and listening closely to classical music is a norm when the room is used for classes and talks. Sometimes world and pop musics as well. Movies are watched in classes and talks as well. Many of our visitors who speak in this room come from Europe or Asia.

We need a system that can handle nearly any format, region, encoding, etc. of DVD video *and* audio, all extant surround formats, with extremely fine and flat audio quality. (Video quality is less of an issue.)

My composer friends, especially, want a 7.1 surround system in the room, capable of playing Dolby, DTS, Audio DVD, SACD, Blu-Ray DVDs encoded for region 1 or 2, HDMI input, etc. My question is, do you think I could do better than the following rig for around the same price (up to about $7000, but every dollar I can save can be used for other urgent things, including a new projector) given these constraints? (I am also somewhat limited: everything I buy has to be available from one of our vendors, so B&H is king.)

My main question is about the speakers. I don't have the luxury of doing a lot of listening or trying things out. But I want to use 7 matched powered nearfield monitors with a lot of juice, plus a sub. After reading reviews, I've become really interested in the JBL LSR series, specifically the LSR4326, which comes in a 5.1 package with an LSR4312 subwoofer for 3500, plus another 1000 for another pair of 4326s to make 7.1. The sub is 400w, 12" and also LSR.

These monitors drive a 6.25 woofer and a 1" Neo tweeter with 150 and 70 watts respectively. They appear to be *highly* room tunable, in sophisticated ways, including self-adjusting or full manual control or software control. They include a room calibration kit and a remote control. Reviews rave about their response and tonal balance, in a "JBL is back" tone.

A cheaper option is the JBL LSR2328, which has an 8" woofer, less power (165w total, 95/70), and at $350 a pair, ultimately save me about 1200-1500 bucks by comparison with the 4326s, even including a 300w sub. I'd lose the remote control and the sophisticated room calibration tools. On the other hand, these speakers just got a total rave review from Bobby Frasier in Mix magazine.

So has anyone used JBL LSRs with the calibration tools? Any thoughts on how useful it was to have these tools? I think in terms of power the 2328s are going to be more than enough.

The other gear in the rack, if you have any comments:

Denon (DJ) 7.1 surround preamplifier. -- $1000
Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD universal Blu-Ray player (nothing seems to play more formats than this) -- $700

Plus power conditioning and stereo playback gear.

Bottom line, I'm looking for feedback mostly on the JBL options (unless you know either Denon or CA decks and want to warn me off one of them or tell me of a better option for either purpose).

Bonus question: this system will deserve a new projector. Anyone want to recommend a projector that costs under $2000 that is *awesome* for watching movies?
posted by fourcheesemac to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No speaker recs, but while that bluray playe will play almost all commercial formats, what about people that bring in a burned audio file that may or may not play? you're looking for compatibility, not couchable use or aesthetics, so i'd go with a HTPC, personally.
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:12 AM on January 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Charles.

HTPC is unfortunately not an option here (and aesthetics do matter). But we'll also have a Numark MP102 DJ cd player that can handle mp3 and other computer-burned stereo audio discs. (The CA deck will still be the primary CD player.) We will have a digital input (multiple connectors, including TOSlink and S/PDIF) for laptops with surround sound audio out as well.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:21 AM on January 3, 2010

DSP room calibration will help a lot. (Personally, I'd look at NHT speakers with a Yamaha integrated amp at your price range, instead of JBL.) I think your best return on investment, however, will come from some double layer sound-killing drapes that you can pull over the white boards and windows. The slap echoes from the hard surfaces you describe (windows, white boards) will kill any treble clarity you might otherwise have, especially in a small room like that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:25 AM on January 3, 2010

Bonus answer: With projectors, you have a difficult choice. For two grand, If you want great saturated colour, you're going to have a dim screen. If you want a bright screen, your colours will be a bit dark and dank. That's because at your price range, you got either single panel LCD, which effectively kills 66% of the lumens emitted by the lamp but has very rich colour, or you got DLP with a colour wheel, which kills output colour saturation in exchange for twice as much on-screen brightness.

I'd go with the LCD projector if you can control room brightness (shut the lights and block the windows, and dim won't seem so dim) If it's for business purposes and colour isn't key, DLP is the way to go.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2010

People say great things about the Oppo Blu-Ray player (review), multiformat and $200 cheaper
posted by ijoyner at 9:30 AM on January 3, 2010

For speaker choices, I'd definitely post this in AVSforums. There are just too many choices- as for BR/DVD-A/SACD/all-around player, I would highly recommend the Oppo BDP-83 player.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:23 PM on January 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys. I've been reading the AVS forums (and many others). And I have looked at the Oppo BDP-83. Main thing is that without a firmware hack (which may or may not work) or a hardware hack (that costs and takes time and voids the warranty), it won't play discs from multiple regions, due to an agreement with the BluRay Association. I don't understand how CA gets around it, but their documentation at least claims the 650BD plays region 1/2/0 discs. We have a lot of European visitors who will be using this system.

FWIW, I have also speced out a passive system with a receiver: a mix of Polk Audio speakers conjoined with a Denon AVR-990 (3310CI).

Believe me, I'm knee deep in forums and reviews. I thought I'd step out of the world where everyone has an ideological opinion about this stuff.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:04 PM on January 3, 2010

« Older Australia Emigration Use-By-Date   |   Hasidic Bars in Brooklyn? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.