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Old 28th February 2009, 04:15 PM   #1
spekkio is offline spekkio  United States
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Feb 2009
Default Help for a newbie looking to get a 5.1 surround setup

Hey all,

I was referred to this site by a friend when I mentioned that I was in the market for a HT system. I have decided on a Viera 50" pz85u tv and a denon 789 receiver, but am having trouble with the speakers.

My friend said that building speakers was "easy," so long as you can cut wood and put wires together (which I can), and referred me to this site...unfortunately, after browsing dozens of threads, I've determined that you guys are all speaking a different language to me. I've never dealt with audio equipment in detail like this, and this site seems to be more geared for advanced users?

So here's the deal: I want to get a 5.1 setup for $1500-2000 (not counting TV or receiver), be it retail or self-built. I have searched around, but have not found any threads that recommend quality retail speakers without spending about 3x my budget, both here and elsewhere on the 'net. I also have not had any luck finding beginner resources on how to build my own speakers.

So my questions:

1. What are the best retail speakers I can get in my price range?

2. I have found suggestions elsewhere on the 'net that KEF iq5/iq2c/iq1 would be good for a budget setup. Upon investigating, those speaker models are over 2 years old, but the fact that I can obtain 5 speakers for under $1k is attractive. Does speaker technology actually advance quickly, or would 2 year old speakers be just as good as ones that come out today?

3. Could you refer me to links/resources where I can start with beginner advice on how to build my own system?

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 1st March 2009, 08:54 AM   #2
dangus is offline dangus  Canada
diyAudio Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Vancouver Island
Energy Take 5 was a system that was well-reviewed, in that price range, and rated as comparable to systems costing much more. They may be cheaper now (and made in China...).

Speaker technology doesn't move very quickly... there's all kinds of older speakers that should work fine as long as you can collect enough of them to do surround. But, in a pinch you can skip the center (any worthwhile surround receiver can be set for "phantom center"), and not match the front and rear speakers. (Because even identical speakers won't sound the same when they're located in different parts of the room.) So, then all you need are two pairs in good working order, and some trolling of thrift stores and yard sales should reward you and leave change from a 50. If you still want to build, go with a proven design (plans) because designing your own speakers is a bit like hoping to fly a plane by feel on your first attempt. Madisound and Zalytron are a couple of kit sources to consider.

The best bang for the buck is to build the subwoofer(s). I favour using a separate home or pro power amp, but you can buy plate amps that can be built into the sub cabinet. (With a stereo amp, you have more flexibility, and I suspect they're more reliable and give more watts for your buck.) Check out the subwoofer forum here, and also the diy forum at to see what the current best-value drivers are. It is very satisfying to sit back and enjoy the pants-flapping bass from a sub you built yourself.
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Old 1st March 2009, 11:46 PM   #3
spekkio is offline spekkio  United States
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Feb 2009
Thanks. I will check out those resources.
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Old 2nd March 2009, 05:04 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: edmonton
Everyone has to start somewhere, why not start with a kit? Or one of the designs here, on htguide? . Lots of good stuff there, and really when it's a published design like that it really is just a matter of cutting wood and soldering wires For the most part, and you learn a tonne in the process.
When I was young I really wanted a bicycle, I used to pray every night for god to bring me one. But as I got older I realized god didn't work that way so I stole one and begged for forgiveness.
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Old 5th March 2009, 07:42 AM   #5
dangus is offline dangus  Canada
diyAudio Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Vancouver Island
There is one minor gotcha with older speakers... foam rot in the surrounds. I was forcibly reminded of this when I took a closer look at what I thought was a good JBL car speaker (the cast frame style), and saw daylight through the surround in several places.

Surrounds can be replaced; there's refoam kits for around $30 a pair.
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