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AV and Speaker suggestions approx £700?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema & Hi-Fi' started by ssmacc, 29 Sep 2019.

  1. ssmacc

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 5 Mar 2007

    Posts: 2,374

    Location: Macclesfield

    Hello all,

    Brother in law is looking for a AV Amp and 5.1 speaker set up, smaller the speakers the better, budget is around £700, any recommendations?

  2. hornetstinger


    Joined: 6 Sep 2016

    Posts: 6,994

    Q acoustics 3010.

    Btw little speakers have limited frequency response so don't go too small, look for speakers that reach down to 80hz
  3. lucid


    Joined: 29 May 2010

    Posts: 5,473

    Location: Cheshire

    I take it that the need for small speakers is to maintain domestic harmony? Or is it purely aesthetic?

    @hornetstinger is correct about smaller speakers being bass-limited. That's simple physics.

    It doesn't mean to say you can't have small satellite speaker. It just means that certain compromises are involved such as more of the workload being shifted to the sub, and the possibility of hearing the position of the sub a bit more than you would do with larger surround speakers. That's because the sub is playing a bit more of the frequencies such as the bottom-end of the male voice range. It also limits the driver size of the sub because it's not possible to make a very large driver play higher frequencies cleanly. TBH, with a £700 total budget, that's not really something you or your B-i-L need to concern yourselves about.

    I'm more of a pragmatic solutions type of guy. If the choice is between small satellites or no speakers at all, then I'll go with small satellites. What I would do though is make sure those small speakers are placed where they can work their best.

    The position to avoid for the front L&R and the surround speakers is the room corners. I would go as far to say that if room corners are the only place allowed for speakers then sack the idea completely and go for a sound bar. That never used to be a practical solution, but growth in sound bar use means that you can now have something in a sound bar that does much of the AV switching and sound processing that a decent surround receiver does, but in something that sits just below the TV screen.

    That's getting slightly ahead of where we're at though, so lets concentrate on the task in hand.

    The Q Acoustics Q3010 are fine speakers, but large (surprisingly deep) and too expensive for your budget. By the time a centre and sub has been added, the total for just the speakers is close to £500, and that's before cabling and wall brackets has been factored in. The matching sub isn't great either. That leaves less than £200 to find a decent (new) 5.1 AV receiver, and that just isn't enough IMO without making massive compromises on compatibility and sound quality that I think make it a waste of money. The practical solution is to be more realistic on the speaker front, then buy a decent amp.

    For speakers, I would shortlist the Elac Cinema 5.1 (outgoing model at £299) or Cinema 5.2 (new model @ £329), Wharfedale DX2 (£399) and Canton Movie 75 (£199).

    Don't dismiss the Cantons for being the cheapest here. They pitch much better than their price point would suggest. For example, they have a tweeter and a woofer in each satellite cabinet whereas some similarly-priced products make the compromise of trying to use a single driver for everything.

    The Canton kit gets you the smallest possible satellite speakers of the three sets. They come with basic wall brackets too.

    Along with Canton, Elac is another German brand. That bodes well for build quality. Again, the centre and four surround speakers have tweeters as well as woofers. Wall brackets come as standard.

    Wharfedale is a renown and respected British brand, but like so many brands today, the product is made in China to keep the costs down. With the DX2 system, you're getting closer to small Hi-Fi speakers rather than a dedicated 5.1 movie kit. That bodes well for music reproduction. All of the satellite speakers have a keyhole fitting on the rear which allows them to be hung on the wall.

    Performance increases step by step up the ladder, but all are excellent performers within their respective price categories. Remember to budget for speaker cable. Unless the room is huge (in which case the budget needs to be looked at very closely) then standard 1.5mm all-copper cable will do just fine. Buy speaker plugs for the amp end. Don't bother with them at the speaker ends as they'll make wall mounting more difficult.

    For a sub cable there's lots of choice, but I'd advocate something with very good shielding but that's also flexible too. The trouble is that hardly any of the brands bother to detail what's inside the cable jacket so it can be a bit of a lottery. If you want to buy something that you know for sure is really excellent then look up " super-thin 'hum killer' 75 Ohm subwoofer install cable ". There's really nothing to touch it for performance, quality and ease of installation.

    Now on to the AV receivers...

    AV receivers do start at £200 (e.g. Denon AVRX250), but spending just a little extra gets better build and more features. In this case, the Yamaha RX-V485 is well worth the extra £60 compared to the entry-level Denon. At £259 it still sits comfortably under the £300, which then leaves plenty of room for £300+ speakers for a nicely balanced system.

    What you get extra over the Denon is #1 better build quality (proper binding posts versus spring clips), #2 Dolby Vision compatibility (can't hurt in the long run), #3 Alexa voice control compatibility.

    There are some other things too, which for domestic harmony, might be just as important. A surprisingly useful feature on Yamahas is the Scene Preset function. In essence, it's the AV receiver equivalent of memory electric seats in a nice car. There are four presets. Each one can be used to memorise a unique combination of input and sound processing mode and a bunch of other settings too. That might not sound like a big deal, but there are two significant benefits:

    First, if you've ever had that phone call when away from home "How do I get the DVD to play?", which normally comes after they've pressed every button known to God and made a right old mess of things, then here's your get-out-of-jail-free card.

    Second, it's like a system reset without wrecking all the important set-up settings. In other words, no matter how messed up someone has got the amp, so long as they haven't changed input assignments or unplugged some wires, the pressing one of the four buttons will restore things back to a working state. That's really useful if you happen to be the phone-a-friend when something isn't working. :D

    One other thing worth mentioning. Denons have a habit of running hot. There's a thread somewhere in the first two pages here about which external fans people are resorting to buying in a big to prevent the amps overheating. All AV amps including the Yamaha run warm, but nothing like the temperature of the Denon.

    Yamaha isn't the only brand for 5.1 under £300. Sony has the STR-DH790 which is their entry-level ATMOS AV receiver. There are a lot of people that like Sony, and some of their higher-end receiver have been very good. The only thing I would caution on is the specs. Sony have a habit of using smoke and mirrors. They do like to make up their own terms for stuff to obscure some or other shortcoming.