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Need help buying passive bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer for a college apartment

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hello, I'm trying to buy a decent pair of passive bookshelf speakers, a subwoofer, and a receiver for a college apartment. Trying to keep the budget around $300. I've found a couple receivers on craigslist so I'll probably just go that route for the receiver, but I could use some help on the speakers and the subwoofer.

 

For the speakers, I haven't looked at too much because until recently I had been looking at active speakers. A quick search for popular ones on amazon (that I've also heard about other places) gave me:

BIC America DV62si (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B00006JPDI/)
JBL ES20 (http://www.amazon.com/JBL-ES20-High-Performance-Bookshelf-Speakers/dp/B00167340E/)

Polk Audio Monitor 30 (http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-AM3025-A-Bookshelf-Speakers/dp/B0002ZSFTG/)

Cerwin Vega VE-5M (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LSG09Q/)

 

I'd like to keep the speaker budget under $200 to give me about $100 for the subwoofer and hopefully $50-75 for the receiver. The price range on these is nice obviously, but if I would lose a lot of quality compared to something a little higher, I'd rather spend the money and get something I'd be happy with. In the same price range, I could also get active speakers (I had been looking at the M-Audio AV40's and Swan D1080's), but from what I've heard before, I could get better quality speakers going with passive and a receiver. If I could get a T-amp or something and get active speakers and a subwoofer without the receiver, that would definitely be a good option as well, but I don't really know much about T-amps or if that would even work or whatnot.

 

For the subwoofer, so far all I've really looked at is the Polk PSW10 (http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-10-Inch-Monitor-Subwoofer/dp/B0002KVQBA/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1357753513&sr=1-1&keywords=polk+psw10) and the Dayton SUB-1000 (http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=300-628), and I've been leaning towards the Dayton. Trying to keep this around $100 and spend more money on the speakers, but I'm definitely open to other suggestions or any information anyone has on either of these.

 

In the end, I'm trying to buy a decent sound system for my apartment/house next year. I definitely need the subwoofer for parties, but the rooms these will be used in aren't huge and I probably don't need to shake the windows necessarily. Looking for nice room-filling speakers that can go fairly loud, and trying to keep the budget as close to $300 as possible. Any reviews on the products I've mentioned would be great or any other suggestions are more than welcome. Like I said, I don't know a ton about this kind of stuff, so anything helps.

Thanks!

post #2 of 14

These little speakers from Pioneer are a very good value.  If you're keeping your budget that low, it's one of the very few I'd consider.

 

The other one I'd consider is the NHT Super Zero 2.0, but they're $99 each instead of $129 for the pair (plus I'm not really sure they're better).

 

- As an aside, I love the username.

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely look into those Pioneers. If I were to get them, do you think I should consider getting the matching subwoofer or stick with a different one?

post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by milksteak View Post

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely look into those Pioneers. If I were to get them, do you think I should consider getting the matching subwoofer or stick with a different one?

 

I'm far from an expert on subwoofers.  It may be something you could get more response on over at Audiogon.  I'm not sure.  Theoretically, the matching sub should blend well, but in practice, that might not be the case.

post #5 of 14

Stephen Mejias at Stereophile thought these were a good deal (though they're not in stock at the moment):

 

Dayton B652 Loudspeakers ($29 / pair)

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=300-652
 

Stereophile review:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/dayton-audio-b652-loudspeaker-measurements

post #6 of 14

I'll post a response since I own two of the products listed in this thread. I have the Polk Audio PSW10 subwoofer and the Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers. The other components of my little 2.1 speaker rig are listed in my signature. Here's a picture:

 

 

 

As far as the subwoofer goes, I was torn between the same two that you are considering. Ultimately I chose the Polk Audio PSW10 for two main reasons. One is that with the Dayton subwoofer, it will cost just a little more with shipping. Also, be sure to check the warranty. You will see that the Polk subwoofer comes with a much better warranty. Here is a review of the Polk:

 

http://reviews.cnet.com/subwoofers/polk-audio-psw10-black/4505-11312_7-31127154.html

 

I think you are on the right track with either subwoofer, but I have not heard the Dayton sub. You will be surprised how powerful the subwoofer is for the price and it should work fine for your situation. I wouldn't worry too much about supposed "matching" of the subwoofer with the speakers. Through the subwoofer controls and subwoofer placement, I think you'll be able to match the subwoofer appropriately with whatever speakers you choose. I think either subwoofer should be a good choice.


Edited by StratocasterMan - 1/10/13 at 11:08pm
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'll probably go with the PSW10 for price, warranty, and aesthetics. And at $29/pair, I might even go with the Dayton speakers and if I feel like trying something else or upgrading later, I still could. Thanks for the recommendation! Do you just run the Daytons through the Polk, or would I need something like the Lepai amp or a receiver to power everything?

post #8 of 14

That was the same thought I had with the Dayton speakers. Are they the best speakers in the world? Of course not. But they are an absolute steal for the price and you can always upgrade later. With a little EQ and combined with the subwoofer, they do much better than one might expect.

 

You will need some kind of amplifier or receiver. I'm using the little Lepai amplifier. The Polk Audio PSW10 subwoofer has what are called "speaker level" inputs and outputs (so does the Dayton sub.) I run speaker wire from the Lepai amplifier to the speaker level inputs on the Polk Audio sub, and then speaker wire from the sub's speaker level outputs back to the Dayton Audio B652 speakers.

 

One "trick" is that I'm feeding the whole system from my FiiO E17 DAC (and headphone amp) and a FiiO L7 line-out dock. This provides a very good line-out signal to the Lepai amplifier. I don't know what source you're going to use. Perhaps a CD player or computer? Anyway, it's important to have a decent source feeding your system because everything else is downstream from the source. A standard headphone-out jack on some computers might not be a good idea for your source.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
The source would be an iPod/iPhone most of the time, and a laptop for the rest of the time probably. Would a headphone amp (such as one of the cheaper/smaller Fiio amps) work well enough or do you think I would need something as powerful as the E17?
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by milksteak View Post

The source would be an iPod/iPhone most of the time, and a laptop for the rest of the time probably. Would a headphone amp (such as one of the cheaper/smaller Fiio amps) work well enough or do you think I would need something as powerful as the E17?

 

A headphone amp won't really work, the FiiO's that are amp/DAC combos could work, but you'll still need an amp to power the speakers.  You'll probably want an amp that puts out somewhere between 15-30 watts per channel - whether that's via an integrated t-amp, a vintage receiver, or some other alternative.

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

I could definitely get one of the FiiO amp/DAC combos and still be within my budget, so that's not a problem! I guess the only other question I have is about active vs. passive speakers. It seems like I've always heard that I can get better sound out of passive speakers and an amp, but the active speakers would obviously be a simpler setup if a pair of active speakers and the subwoofer would sound just as good. Would something like the M-Audio AV40's or even the Audioengine A2's + the sub sound better or should I stick with passive?

post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by milksteak View Post

I could definitely get one of the FiiO amp/DAC combos and still be within my budget, so that's not a problem! I guess the only other question I have is about active vs. passive speakers. It seems like I've always heard that I can get better sound out of passive speakers and an amp, but the active speakers would obviously be a simpler setup if a pair of active speakers and the subwoofer would sound just as good. Would something like the M-Audio AV40's or even the Audioengine A2's + the sub sound better or should I stick with passive?


Do you already have a decent amp? I usually recommend people to get 2.0 monitors for value and sound quality due to passive speakers usually requiring a $100ish amp and taking up more room and being harder to move around. With something like the KRK Rokit 8's like I have that I have seen for as low as $375 you wouldn't even need a sub, but if you already have an amp then the Pioneer SP-BS22's are great speaker and would be my pick unless you want to spend $200 or more but id still probably take the pioneers. Bestbuy had them for $89.

 

The thing with a receiver is if you can have every thing in the same area you can connect an iPod, your computer, your TV and movies and have every thing sound better vs the monitors that only have 1 RCA and TRS ins.

post #13 of 14

I like the idea of keeping things separate. While their are many great active monitors available, it's likely you may get upgrade-itis somewhere down the road. With separate components, you can try a tower speaker if you end up moving stuff around or have more room to fill at some point. Or maybe, you like your speakers, but decide you want to try a tube amplifier or preamp for more warmth. Or maybe, you replace the speakers and end up using the old ones as surround speakers for a home theater or something. I just like the flexibility of the separates because you can make changes one component at a time. If the upgrade bug strikes, then you're not looking at replacing everything at once. Also, you can find a lot of used amps / receivers / speakers, etc. on places like Craig's List if you decide to upgrade. 

 

If you get something like the Audioengine A2, there's a pretty big danger you may decide you need something like the A5+ about a week later.

 

You may want to read this:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-57439115-47/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-$70/

 

There are plenty of really nice active monitors, though, so it's just a thought.


Edited by StratocasterMan - 1/12/13 at 6:17am
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

I think I'll probably go with the Dayton + Lepai + FiiO and Polk PSW10. It's hard to say no to that price, and it leaves plenty of budget to upgrade later if I feel the need to. It seems to be exactly what I'm looking for. Thanks for all the help and suggestions, everyone!

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