I want to buy a home office audio system this weekend
May 13, 2011 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Please guide me in buying 2 speakers plus sub-woofer and an amp for my 13 foot square home office (with TV and computer). I am adrift even after a good bit of research. My budget, room size and needs are more modest than in past questions I read. Also mail order is out. Lots of details and clarification within.

Showing my age: when I was young you could stop by an "audio store" on your way home on Friday and buy speakers and amp. Now it's all about "Home Theater". I went to Best Buy, Radio Shack, Costco, Target and PC Richards and all I see is surround sound. I can buy speakers but no "amp" (maybe I'm asking for the wrong thing?).

Mail order deliveries don't work well for me, so I'd like to buy retail, in the South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia. Google puts pins all over the map and they all say Best Buy plus a couple PC Richards (been to both as noted above)!

The TV is a Vizio GV42L which takes its input from either Mac Mini or HDMI connected DVD player (not blu ray). The PC is just an HP a6230n with Realtek HD Audio.

Friend at work suggested this amp and these speakers and this sub-woofer. But I haven't seen them at local stores.

In a perfect world some kind of input switch to select either the computer or TV audio output would be nice, but I'm not proud, I could just unplug/plug in.

I'd love to buy something suitable this weekend, give the economy a small boost. Is $450 too small a budget? I'm not an audiophile, I just want something nicer than the built in TV speakers and simple computer speakers.

Thanks in advance folks!
posted by forthright to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd take a look here. At least for ideas.

Really if you aren't an audiophile type guy, most decent manufacturers make something that will sound about the same, all are probably better than you think by the look of them. I've always been a believer in Klipsch stuff, but Polk is fine too. I also know and like Infinity, Boston and Harman Kardon. Really any electronics store will have a setup where you can listen to 4 or 5 smaller home theater style setups and choose one.

If you just want a 2+1 system, don't overlook computer sound systems, many are 2+1 and sound just as good as their bigger brethren.
posted by sanka at 7:28 PM on May 13, 2011

Thanks, sanka, for the quick reply.

Based on that link, maybe I should have gone into the "Home Theater" *room* in Best Buy? I'm surprised the salesman who took me to the speaker selection on the main floor and responded "no, we don't sell amps" didn't just point me there. I thought "Home Theater" was big bucks for big rooms and fancy equipment. I guess I'm showing my age and ignorance.

Your comment is interesting about the computer sound systems, because I have a Microcenter on the way between home and work, I didn't think to go there at all.

I see Newegg has PolkAudio like my friend at work recommended, so I just need to find a brick and mortar that sells that (or the other brands you suggested).

I'll leave the question open in case anyone has specific advice about suitability for my particular equipment, or any advice on how to speak to the sales people to bridge the communication gap I seem to have.
posted by forthright at 7:42 PM on May 13, 2011

Poke around Audiogon using their search funtion; set price range and stand mounted. Dali, B&W, JM Labs; all pseudo art made by real people as compared to blow molded crap from a third world sweatshop.

Do the same for an amp. Poof. All that is missing is real wood paneling and a nice cigar.
posted by buzzman at 8:24 PM on May 13, 2011

Thanks buzzman, but I gather those are classified listings, I was interested only in brick and mortar retail stores.
posted by forthright at 8:41 PM on May 13, 2011

Since you've got three sources with video you might as well just get a cheap home theatre receiver (if you're willing to pad your budget a bit). You can probably find a deal on an entry level Denon or Onkyo AVR for around $250. Just ignore the surround channels.

Speakers are way more important than the amp. To my view the Polk speakers you linked to are too small for front channels (especially if you're going to be listening to music). I would look for a pair of bookshelf speakers (with at least a six inch woofer) from one of the brands mentioned up thread. Though I suspect I might be a little pickier than you.
posted by sockpup at 9:00 PM on May 13, 2011

You don't need an amp. Unless you are going all separate components (reciever, separate CD, separate DVD, separate speakers, separate everything), a "home theater in a box" will definitely suit your needs.

This usually comes with a head unit for CD/DVD/Blu-ray stuff and an amp inside it, and 3 to 5 speakers, including a self powered subwoofer. Or you could go with a computer speaker set where there is no head unit, it just does sound, and it's also self powered by it's own amp (usually inside the sub enclosure). This only requires a headphone or RCA jack input.

It really depends on your needs.
posted by sanka at 9:02 PM on May 13, 2011

sockpup, ok, thanks...so my miscommunication with Best Buy and Radio Shack was in asking about an "amp" when I should have asked about a "receiver"...and I'll keep your advice about speakers in mind on Saturday's shopping trip...and I'll ignore surround sound channels.

sanka, thanks for the follow-up...on Saturday I'll also look for "home theater in a box", or else a good computer speaker set-up with amp inside the sub-woofer. I was concerned about the audio inputs expected by a home theater system vs. what I have to give it. I'll double check that before I buy.

Thanks for your patient help.
posted by forthright at 9:20 PM on May 13, 2011

All that "home theater in a box" stuff is going to sound like crap, so if you're looking to listen to decent music at decent levels, you're MUCH better off getting something decent. My advice is to post this question in the General Audio Discussion forum at www.audiokarma.org

The folks there will be able to recommend something specific and can tell you where you can get it.
posted by Slinga at 9:25 PM on May 13, 2011

But Slinga, I guarantee their recommendations won't be for around $450. 99% of people can't hear the difference between true audiophile grade equipment and home theater in a box.

I'm not bagging on you forthright, I care about sound a lot, but I'm really doubting you'd ask this question if you were willing to drop a few thousand on pro equipment.
posted by sanka at 9:33 PM on May 13, 2011

Yes, sanka, my budget is based on a small bonus at work. And no offense taken...I probably can't hear the difference.

Thanks Slinga for taking the time to reply, but it sounds like I'm out of your league.
posted by forthright at 9:46 PM on May 13, 2011

Audiokarma is full of people who know all about building a system on a budget. You can easily put together a killer stereo setup for $450 or less. You'll definitely be blown away.
posted by Slinga at 9:52 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I posted this question there, so we'll see what people say. I love Metafilter, but I think Audiokarma will be a little better for this specific of a question. I don't know too much about stereo equipment post-1980, but plenty of folks there do.

posted by Slinga at 9:54 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, Slinga...that's very gracious of you! I will follow both threads.
posted by forthright at 10:09 PM on May 13, 2011

OK, for all who helped and for anyone finding this thread later, this is what I now have sitting next to me at home:

2 Martin Logan Motion 4 Speakers $250 each
1 Pioneer VSX-520-K $180

I hope nobody who helped give me advice will mind that I went over my budget. I was very pleased with the speakers during a listening session in Best Buy's sound room, compared to others. At one point, the salesman was called away, so I really got to listen to the Motion 4's for quite a while, and to look up product reviews on my cell phone (which seemed positive).

The receiver was chosen to stay as close to budget as possible while still having some quality and features. In a sense I went even further over budget than shown since I did not end up getting a sub-woofer. The salesman's logic is that can easily be added at a later time.

And, of course, my need to buy at brick & mortar retail meant I did not get as good a value as I might have.

I will now start hooking everything up. If anyone thinks I've made an awful choice feel free to reply since there's a 30 day exchange policy.

I have marked best answers for those that (to me) educated me the most, but I really appreciate everyone's help! Thanks!
posted by forthright at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2011

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