Sound Advice: $5,000 buys a lot of toddler-proof audio

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2014 - 1:02 PM

Q: I’m interested in having good speakers in a family room that will soon need to be toddler-friendly.

The room is 13 by 22 feet, with a cathedral ceiling. I plan on a wall-mounted flat-screen TV with a wall-mounted center channel and a hidden subwoofer. I want a 5.1 system. The challenge is the main speakers. With a $2,000 to $3,000 budget for the mains, I see three options: in-wall, wall-mounted or floor speakers with a gate to keep an active little boy from wanting to pull over the speakers, or elevating them out of his reach.

We typically play music at a low volume but want big sound for movie night for less than $5,000 total.

What do you recommend?

A: Go with wall-mounted speakers. Forget elevating the mains. Besides being difficult, most floor speakers are engineered to use reflections from the floor to enhance bass. If you take them off the floor, they won’t sound right.

Here’s what I would do:

Get three GoldenEar SuperSat 60s — left, center and right — for $2,400 total (www.goldenear.com).

Any of the SuperSats will suffice for surrounds, from the SuperSat 3s ($249 each) to the SuperSat 60s ($799 each), although you don’t need to go any bigger than the SuperSat 50s for $499 each.

The best subwoofer for your situation is the GoldenEar ForceField 5 for $999.

There are decent, inexpensive subs available that could save you money, such as the 12-inch powered subwoofer from Monoprice for less than $150, or you could get a smaller sub from GoldenEar. Given your desires, the room size and the cathedral ceiling, you should get the best sub.

You could get away with a receiver to power your system, but I would rather see you get separate amplifier and preamplifier. The amplifiers in receivers are not as potent as their specifications would lead you to believe, because they are usually measured with only one or two channels driven.

The Emotiva UPA-500 amplifier is only $349 (shop.emotiva.com).

Connect the amp to the $549 Outlaw Audio 975 processor (www.outlawaudio.com) to complete the setup for $900 total, which is only $200 more than a good receiver would cost you. It’s more powerful and more flexible, too.

This puts you between $4,000 and $5,000, depending on the subwoofer chosen.

A great system for anyone with a smaller room and lower budget would be five SuperSat 3s, a less expensive subwoofer and a $400 receiver such as the Marantz NR-1403, coming in at less than $2,200 complete.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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