Q: I have a 25-by-20 foot room and need a sound system for TV and movie watching. I am torn between tower speakers or a soundbar and would prefer to avoid placing a separate subwoofer. I do not want to place surround speakers so the system will be limited to the towers or soundbar, and possibly the subwoofer if absolutely required.
I want quality and am considering the GoldenEar towers or soundbar you have mentioned, as well as a few others. Would I be better off with tower speakers or a soundbar?
-- K.F., Germantown, Wis.
A: The first thing to consider is placement. If you are using tower speakers ideally the speakers will be an equal distance from the left and right of the television, with the listeners grouped toward the center of the viewing area. Otherwise the sound, especially the dialogue, may seem unbalanced to one side or another. If you add a center channel to complete the front stage the listeners will hear the dialogue coming from the proximity of the television screen. I recommend you add the center channel if you decide on tower speakers.
The GoldenEar Triton tower speakers have built-in subwoofers, making them a good choice since you want as little a footprint as possible. The Triton Two's are $3,000 per pair and the Triton Three's are $2,000 a pair. (www.goldenear.com)
Another highly acclaimed tower speaker with built-in powered subwoofers is the new Bipolar SuperTower series from Definitive Technology. These speakers radiate sound from the front and the back to produce a big, spacious sound that would be very impressive in your large room. Prices range from $1,200/pair for the BP-8020ST to $5,600/pair for the BP-7000SC. For those looking for a complete system, the Definitive BP-8020ST system is one of the best deals going at $2,200 for the entire 5-channel setup. (www.definitivetech.com)
These two top-tier brands are probably the most prominent manufacturers offering towers with built-in subwoofers. Both Definitive and GoldenEar have extensive dealer networks so give both a listen before deciding.
Almost all premium quality soundbars require a separate subwoofer. There are a few that have built-in subwoofers, but they are meant for smaller rooms.
It sounds as if I am repeating myself, but my favorite soundbars are from GoldenEar Technology and Definitive Technology. The $999 GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar is a three-channel soundbar with left, center and right speakers. Your receiver will mix the surround information into the left and right speakers, but at a slightly lower volume than the front information. Special processing in the soundbar creates spaciousness, and the sound is incredibly sweet and detailed. Since it is a 3-channel, many owners add surround speakers as well.
The Definitive Technology Mythos SSA surroundbars are complete 5-channel speaker systems with left, right, center, left surround, and right surround speakers. They comes in 42-inch and 50-inch sizes for $799 and $1,099, respectively. They are punchy, crisp and really fill a room with sound. A powered version with HDMI switching, the SoloCinema XTR, is available for $2,000. I reviewed it recently and will have more about it in a future column.
As for my recommendation, you can't lose with any of these choices but if it was me, given the room size I would get the best, biggest towers I could and match a center channel.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.