I am attempting to enter the world of "mid-end" audio. This is my first foray and I am completely overwhelmed with the many speaker, amplifier, surround sound, sub woofer, digital processor, etc. technologies / options.

Could you recommend a complete setup for me? My room is 16′ x 20′ with 16′ ceilings.

I really would like a system that could last for the next 15 – 20 years…(unless some uber cool technology develops and I need a new component…)

– Monica

SECRETS Senior Editor, Carlo LoRaso, asked some additional questions of Monica:

Monica is looking a full surround sound system and not just a really good stereo setup. The use will be 70% Movies and 30% Music.

Monica would like to keep the expenditure under $15k and Design/style is important, but not at the expense of function. Having said that, the horizontal space is kinda limited to the length of a 14′ wall – if a speaker sits in front of a cabinet or 9′ if it sits in front of a wall.


Hi Monica,

I was originally thinking that this was going to be a quick reply with an easy recommendation for you but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give you a few options since I can’t physically see your room. Now, you said that you had 16 foot ceilings which makes ceiling mounted speakers a little problematic for a “textbook” Dolby ATMOS or DTS:X speaker setup. But I think I have a solution for that.

Home Theater Receivers

Anthem MRX 1120 ($3499.00), Yamaha RX-A3070 ($2200.00) or Marantz SR 7011 ($2200.00).

Any of these receivers would fit the bill and have you covered tech-wise for a long time. While the Yamaha and Marantz have more bells and whistles, I would pick the Anthem first on sound quality and usability. Also, the Anthem has 11 built in amplifier channels where the others have 9. This means you can expand your surround sound set up to a full Dolby ATMOS 7.2.4 setup (7 surround speakers, 2 subwoofers and 4 height speakers) without having to add an extra amplifier box. But again, any of these three would serve you well.

Speaker Systems

There are a lot of good speaker systems out there. The ones that I am going to recommend are brands and models that I have had some measure of experience with. A basic 5.1 surround system will consist of 5 speakers (Left, Right, Center, Surround Left, Surround Right) and a subwoofer. And that can be a perfectly good place to start and finish if implemented well. You can add two more (optional) “Back” speakers for a 7.1 system if you have the space, and then up to four more height speakers mounted either in the ceiling or on the walls, above the others and angled down, to create a Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X compatible theater. Since I only know general details about your room, I’m going to recommend certain speaker model lines for you to investigate. You can decide how simple or complicated you want your install to be. In some instances, on-wall surround speakers may be preferable to just regular tower or bookshelf speakers purposed for surround duty. Again, this depends on your room layout and where you can and can’t run speaker wire.

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ELAC UNI-FI Slim Series: A pair of FS U5 Slim tower speakers for left and right. A CC U5 Slim center channel speaker and a pair of BS U5 bookshelf speakers for surrounds. As ELAC doesn’t make a matching wall mounted surround speaker, if you needed to go that route I would add a pair of Ultra Surround Speakers from SVS as a viable surround speaker alternative.

Paradigm Prestige Series: A pair of Prestige 85F tower speakers for left and right. A C25 center channel speaker and a pair of Prestige 15B bookshelf speakers or Prestige 25S on-wall speakers for surrounds.

Revel Concerta 2 Series: A pair of F36 tower speakers for left and right. A Prestige 45C center channel speaker and a pair of M16 bookshelf speakers or S16 on-wall speakers for surrounds.

GoldenEar Triton Cinema: A pair of Triton Two+ tower speakers for left and right. A SuperCenter XXL center channel speaker and a pair of SuperSat 60 speakers (these can be either stand or wall mounted) for surrounds.

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For any of the above speaker systems I would recommend using a subwoofer from HSU Research. Their VTF-3 MK 5 HP subwoofer would be a good choice for your size of room. The GoldenEar speaker package could very well get by without a separate subwoofer as the main tower speakers have built in subwoofers already and can be wired appropriately to your receiver.

For the overhead height speakers, I would recommend going with four SVS Prime Elevation speakers as they are specially designed to be mounted higher on the side walls and are angled to fire their sound down towards the listener.

Player or Source Component

For a source component, I would recommend the OPPO UDP-203 4K HD disk player ($549.00). It will play any disk format under the sun and when you are ready to move to 4K UHD Blu-rays, it will be ready for you.

Accessories: Speaker and interconnect cable

I would forgo whatever cable is included with the components you buy as that tends to be there only for the sake of convenience. That also doesn’t mean you should go out and spend a small fortune on connection wire either. For speaker cable, I would recommend nothing thinner than 12-gauge wire. You can also purchase banana plugs or spades to terminate the ends of the speaker wire. This helps for convenient connecting to the speaker and receiver binding posts, but some people prefer bare wire connection to the speaker jacks too. It’s purely optional. For the interconnect cables between your components, both for audio, video and frankly speaker, I would refer you to either Blue Jeans Cable, RAM Electronics or Monoprice. Each sells decent quality cable with Monoprice being the value leader of the bunch. I tend to like Blue Jeans Cable personally. I have both my main systems wired with their speaker, audio and video cable and have never had any issues. You can order your speaker cable in bulk or custom lengths which they will terminate for you. They also are very knowledgeable about the science of cables and will not sell you what you don’t need. Monoprice and RAM cater to all price levels while Blue Jeans just sells good reputable cable.

I hope I’ve been able to give you some helpful information to chew on. Please don’t hesitate to ask me any additional questions if there is anything you’d like more clarification on.