Well, I have resurrected an old 5.1 mini speaker system (an Energy Take 5) and it sounds really great. Adding a Denon AVR-X3700H and then four NHT Atmos Mini Add-on was a great choice. by luck, these tiny little speakers fit on top of the Energy Take 5 modules and the room sounds really nice. So now we have a 5.1.4 system and are using all the channels with the Denon. This is a bedroom, so it is not an ideal setup, but putting these direct-radiating speakers inline with your ears has worked. It just needed some small paperbacks to get it to the right height. The receiver is definitely a bit of overkill, but it was nice to start.
- ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2 and Debut 2.0 A4.2 Dolby Atmos for the rears
- SVS Prime Elevation for the front Atmos speakers on top of the Deftech
- Videosecu MS08B rear stands for the rears to hold them up
Resurrecting Deftech BP-3000 TL and C/L/R-3000
So on to the next project which is resurrecting another old set of speakers. The nice thing about speakers is that they don't really "age" in the same way. Yes over decades, the speaker cones get brittle, but a speaker set that is 10-15 years old is still pretty good.
In this case, these are big towers that are bipolar speakers, the Definitive Technology BP-3000 TL and the center C/L/R-3000 These back then were real monsters with 18" woofers and lots of side-firing. And they are massive at 153 pounds and 9x19x55 high. The idea was to create a gigantic sound stage. There is even still a brochure about them and I remember reading it over and over. So it's a great pleasure to get it working again.
Here are the steps if you are doing the same:
- First was getting the connectors running again. The speakers were beware and the little metal connectors were lost. Also whoever took the thing apart lost the little nuts and actually broke off most of the binding posts. Argh. The solution is a little expensive, but you can get these little metal connectors from Amazon and then off to Lowe's to find a matching nut.
- These things do have five-way binding posts which are nice, but because someone snapped off the posts, you can only use a spade connector now. So that's a real pain, but the overall speakers sound great. You could unscrew the whole backplate and replace them which I might very well do.
- The configuration is a little confusing as you can tri-amp the things, that is you can independently power the woofer, mids and tweeters. This can make sense theoretically if you bi-amp, that is have an amp for the tweeters and for the midrange. Then provide a low-level input to the woofer as this thing has a 1kW amplifier.
- These do require tuning. Right now I'm using an old 10-year old Denon receiver but it does have Audyssey and tuned it up nicely since it looks like you can use the new microphone on the old Denon's. The only small problem is that you do get a phase error as the system gets confused by this diffused sounds from all the radiators.
Buying from smaller companies
And as an aside it would be nice to buy speakers from someone who is not a massive conglomerate (DEI Holdings through Sound United controls Denon, Marantz, Boston Acoustics, Polk, Definitive Technology and Classe and Voxx International owns Klipsch, Acoustic Research, Advent, Jensen, RCA, 808, Jamo, Energy).
So for example, NHT is privately held so a good choice and they make very nice speakers. And, SVS, famed for their subwoofers, is still based in Ohio and independently owned. KEF which is based in Britain doing very high end stuff is owned ultimately by Hong Kong's Gold Peak Group (they also own Celestron), but isn't part of a huge conglomerate
But ELAC is a German company that is ultimately owned by Legend formally know as Lenovo when they bought Audio Alchemy. ELACs main claim to fame is that it has Andrew Jones, who has been designed speakers forever at KEF, Infinity, and then TAD and Pioneer. So another one to consider.
Adding Rear and Elevation Speakers
But the next step is to add more speakers and there's a great set of choices here and ideally something that will fit on the 9" x 19" wide and deep top of these speakers. They are 55" high, so closer to the ceiling to make the bounce of sound better:
The old Denon I have supports Height speakers, so this is an easy one to add. Deftech does make an elevation speaker set that looks nice on top, but it requires a connector so that the wires actually come out of the back of the speakers. Net, net, this is not going to work with these old speakers, so I need standalone modules. We can use much larger elevation speakers here as these are not dinky ones. Make Life Click has a pretty good list:
So some choices (from smaller makers) are:
SVS Prime Elevation. These are pretty big, but given these are huge tower speakers that should make much difference. These are super versatile and can be used mounted on the wall as height speakers or pointing upwards as elevation speakers. If you buy them directly from SVS Sound, they have a 45-day home trial which is pretty awesome. They are pretty expensive at $249 (for piano black, the black ash is $199) each. These are pretty high at 9.4" High, 5.44 Wide, and 8.33" deep but so will definitely fit in the 9x19 space on top. In fact they might look a little small.
Even higher end is the British KEF Q50a (I've been wanting their LS50 Wireless II but can't quite justify the $2300 per pair price!). These are just their Atmos units Q50 which are still $600 a pair, but it's KEF 🙂 These will fit at 6.8"H x 7" Wide x 10" deep so not a bad choice.
Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-140SA although from a big conglomerate, is pretty nice at $499 a pair. It has a horn tweeter (the Klipsch trademark). As an aside, with Atmos, it only sends high frequencies upwards (180 Hz and above) so matching timbre really doesn't matter as much nor does the small size of the woofers. And theoretically, horns are more directional, so that might help a bit on the localization of sound. They are a little bigger so might mate better with the Deftech at 6x7x11.25 WxHxD.
Rear Surround and Elevation Speakers
Then we need to add some speakers in the back. The room won't really allow mid surround to get 7.1.2, we will go with 5.1.4 (like the other setup). So we need a pair of surround speakers in the rear. This is a bedroom as well, so we need direct-radiating speakers at ear level at the rear.
Here are some good choices. For the rears, you normally go with a smaller speaker, but looking though What Hi-Fi? and Wirecutter for bookshelf and then for surround speakers as well. it does seem like the prices have come down so much that a decent small bookcase speaker. makes a nice surround and later on you can repurpose them if you like to be the front speakers for a smaller system.
As an aside the ELAC line is so good (and also loved at Audio Advice) What Hi-Fi? devotes an entire article just to comparing the lines. The big thing to consider is where you want the slimmer Uni-Fi Bs U5 Slim 9but they do cost much more at $900 a pair).
- Elac Debut B5.2. These speakers have been getting rave reviews everywhere as value leaders. You do need a stand to go with them in the rear and a right now on sale at $230 a pair at or $480 if bundled with the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 below Amazon. They are reasonably small at 34cm x 18cm x 23 cm. As an aside, if you have room, you can use the slightly large ELAC Debut B6.2 that Wirecutter also likes which are $290 at Amazon at 37cm x 20cm x 27cm.
- Q Acoustics 3030i. These are also well-liked and Wirecutter loves the slightly smaller 3020i ($270 at Amazon). These are larger and more expensive at $400 a pair at Amazon but still very reasonable in the scheme of things.
- Polk Signature Series S15. Just $200 for a pair, this is what Wirecutter likes (with the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 just behind it) given the cost and decent sound quality. IN this case, I give a slight hat tip to ELAC because at least it is owned by a smaller Hong Kong company and after all it's not just about looks, the sound matters 🙂
- KEF R3. Finally, if you have more money (than sense?), you can go for these $2K speakers which is really well-liked and set the standard for stand mounted quality. These same speakers are available wireless as the Q50
Elevation Speakers for Rears
Then there are the ELAC Debut 2.0 A4.2 which are 9"Dx7"Wx5"High at $199 a pair so way more reasonable and of course it has been getting great reviews. Remember you want the speakers halfway between the floor and the ceiling, so the Definitive Technology BP-3000TL is a little high but not bad. Given that the sound is not as critical going upwards, they are a good budget choice.
I have not really bought these in the past, but these rears do need them and there is room. So What Hifi? has a review as does Techsounded and Audioholics and Speaker Champion. The main thing is that it shouldn't be too big and fit the Crutchfield reported dimensions of the ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2 at 9.3 deep x7.10 wide x13.50 high and 13 pounds. While you can get adjustable ones, the wooden and solid ones tend to look niceer.
- VideoSecu MS08B DA8. This is adjustable and side clamping if a bit of ugly metal. These are all steel as I said, so would be durable. And can hold 20 pounds.
- Atlantic Adjustable 27-48 inch. These are also cast iron but adjustable. And sturdy according to Techsounded. It has a small top plate so a good match for surround.
- Atlantic Adjustable PN77335799. This is a nicer looking version. You can connect it to the base either with mounting tape or it has isolation pads as well. It is fixed height, but you can tilt the speakers up and down 45 degrees.
- Mounting Dream MD5401. This is 35-48" high and is steel in construction and not completely ugly. Plus got to love the name. $40 at Amazon. It is 11-pound maximum, so probably too light the ELACs
- SANUS BF31-B1. These are fixed height and can hold $20 pounds. It is made of MDF so not wood or steel so be careful when assembling it. 31" high
- VIVO 23 inch SP02B. This is 23 high and the top is 8x8 while the base is 10x10. This has gotten multiple good reviews and 22-pound weight limit. The main problem is that they are a little short for surrounds.
- Mount-It! 23" tall. This might be a little short but the top shelf is 8x8 so it is not a perfect match to the 9x7 and it's a fixed height of 23 inches so better for bigger speakers
- Rockville RHTSB 36". These are fixed height but made of wood so it looks good. It is hollo on the inside so that you can fill it with sand or just use it to hide wires (the latter is more likely with a rear surround).