2011 $3.5k Recommended System

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Audioholics Robot
Staff member
There are as many ways to build a $3500 home theater system as there are people. Chances are, you have some of this stuff already. You aren't likely to be starting from scratch. That means, you can either ignore the parts of the recommended system you already have or take a gander at some of our alternates to make up the difference. Don't worry, we'll help you spend that hard-earned money. Building the perfect system is a very personal thing, but we think our list is a great place to start.


Discuss "2011 $3.5k Recommended System" here. Read the article.
 
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Here is the system I would build for 3.5k:

Projector: Optoma HD33, $1.5k
screen: Wilson Art DIY 125", $250
Reciever: Onkyo TX-SR709, $550
Source: Panasonic DMP-BDT210, $120
Speakers: Infinity Primus p163 fronts, c351 center, p153 surrounds, $520
Subwoofer: Rythmik FV12, or Epik Legend

The advantages are obvious, larger screen, 1080p picture, and much better subwoofer. I think what it gives up from the recommended system is the blu-ray player doesn't have as many features, and of course, the screen would take some elbow grease. Also my setup squeezes every last penny in performance out of that 3500 and doesn't leave any room for cables, surge protectors, mounts, etc. Another caveat is these prices are shipped prices, but they do take some looking to find, ie they are not all conveniently at the audioholics store.

If I had just a little more room, like say $50 more, I would upgrade the sub to the Hsu VTF2 mk3, or Outlaw Audio LFM-1 Plus, or Elemental Designs A3-300, for even more powerful deep bass. I really wanted to squeeze one of those subs in there, but I had to play fair and keep the entire setup under $3500 shipped, and as it was I was bending the budget a bit to skip the cables. If I have to factor cables in the final price, I would step the sub down to a Elemental Designs A3-250 thereby saving $50 and getting those cables from Monoprice, the most expensive certainly being the HDMI that needs to go from the receiver to the projector.

An alternate setup for me would be to skip 3D and downgrade the projector to a Optoma HD20 or BenQ W1100 or Vivitek H1080FD. Then take that $500 saved and upgrade the fronts to Infinity Primus p363, and upgrade the sub to a Outlaw Audio LFM-1 EX or Hsu VTF3 or SVS PB12 NSD. This might be what I would lean towards because I like the bangin' music more than I like 3D, although I don't have the animosity towards 3D that many around here seem to harbor.
 
sholling

sholling

Audioholic Ninja
I think I'd dump the Oppo for a $100 BD player and go for better speakers and subwoofer than the Bostons
 
GranteedEV

GranteedEV

Audioholic Ninja
The advantages are obvious, larger screen, 1080p picture, and much better subwoofer. I think what it gives up from the recommended system is the blu-ray player doesn't have as many features, and of course, the screen would take some elbow grease.
The problem is that a 125" screen means a good seating distance IE 15 ft

The infinities are nice speakers but they're not up to the task of that seating distance! Asking way too much from a 6.5" woofer!
 
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
I have about 13' from me and said 125" screen, while that might be a little closer than recommended, its what I have found I enjoyed the most. Also you can pull the speakers closer to the listening position than the screen, in fact you would never want the speakers right against the wall anyway. While you won't get reference listening levels with p163 speakers, they do get plenty loud while remaining clean, trust me on this. I'm sure they get louder than most people would ever listen, we must remember very few listen to their movies at reference.
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
With Projector, I'd gladly skip 3D over good 1080p and top of the line BD Player.
Epson 8350 would good choice.
Screen: Seymour XD DIY Screen (No sure of it's price)
Speakers - no reason to use center speakers with AT screen - so 3 x Infinity 363 fronts, 2x Infinity P163 Surrounds. - 770
Sub : Rythmic FV12 Sub - $500, HSU VTF-2.3 or if one has a lot of patience: eD A3-300
Yamaha RX-A1000 AVR - Currently can be found for $700
Panasonic 1080p 50" Plasma and Panasonic BD Player
 
Cruise Missile

Cruise Missile

Full Audioholic
I'm sure they get louder than most people would ever listen, we must remember very few listen to their movies at reference.
This was a recent discussion topic with the wife. I noticed as we've moved up river with our theater we listen at or near-to reference level with movies. I also noticed I have stopped hanging on to the remote in preperation of a quick volume change.

A clock radio is downright painful at 70 DB, that's why no one ever turns them up.

I'll crank a system built with quality speakers and plenty of amplifier headroom in a heartbeat.

I believe this is why most listen at lower levels, not the other way around.
 
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
I think this is true to an extant, that badly distorted loudness can sound obnoxious while a clean sound is much more tolerable at loud volumes. However, at a certain point anything is too much, no matter what the reference level junkies say, loud noise is loud noise, and will become painful and irritating at loud enough levels and for long enough time lengths. I could also see reference level listening is also potentially damaging if the movie is non-stop peak-amplitude mayhem. Occasionally though, I do like to push my system to zero for the right movie, but I don't leave it at zero for the entire length. I fear for my house when my subs are punching that hard.
 
GranteedEV

GranteedEV

Audioholic Ninja
This was a recent discussion topic with the wife. I noticed as we've moved up river with our theater we listen at or near-to reference level with movies. I also noticed I have stopped hanging on to the remote in preperation of a quick volume change.
Yep, the less distortion cues in our system, the louder we feel we can listen and the result tends to be startling dynamics despite relaxed tonality. And room acoustics are a big factor in that as well. The more reflection information (especially dissimilar) our brain has to process at a time along with the direct info, Floyd Toole's research tells us that this is perceived as "higher SPL" but the problem is that it doesn't scale with lower volumes in a dynamic soundtrack. Low level information is lost because you listen too quietly, and the reflections associated with it are near or below audibility.

I think this is true to an extant, that badly distorted loudness can sound obnoxious while a clean sound is much more tolerable at loud volumes.
Bad distortion we can recognize, but how easily can we recognize a 6.5" mid sensitivity woofer straining at 90db @ 100hz where a pair of 8" high sensitivity woofers may be crusiing along?

The thing to realize is the dynamic range of the movie, not the average listening volume. Movies (and classical music) are unpredictable and can go anywhere from quiet, to everyday levels, to loud. The average listening volume might sound great, but then a dynamic score comes in and we feel a need to turn it down...
 
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