For experienced audiophiles only please

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by olddog, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    As I have come to find out that I have never owned a set of good speakers, please I beg your indifference to your personal preferences and just try to put yourself into my head for a moment, as I have put in over 2 months time and effort into this. That I ask this of you should go a long ways toward showing you good folks how much I respect your abilities and opinions.
    I am shopping for a set of front mains and center that will be married to my Denon 2808. I have 2-matched Mirage subs outboard of each floor stander at the moment for extended bass.
    Music and movies 50/50 classic rock, blues C&W. I really like everything except opera, rap, and Techno.
    I have auditioned a number of speakers:
    Polk LSI9+very good
    New Mirage OS3 FS towers=to tinny-is that a word?
    Dana 680=to laid back
    Paragram Studio 10= just sounded too small
    Revel M12= bass covered detail/too colored would be the right word?
    Vienna Hayden=Sweet like your mothers kiss on the check/no excitement?
    B&W 685= I loved it? Just right.

    Speakers that I have been reading glowing reports on for the last 4 weeks but have been unable to audition.
    These are the ones I would like your opinion on mentally comparing them to the B&W685 please.

    Swan Diva 6.1
    Totem Hawk
    Salk Sound Tower
    Vandersteen 2CE Sig II
    Usher Be-718
    RHB TK-5CT
    Or any others you may have a suggestion about. But remember please this is my head and my money so please leave your ears at the door.
    I sincerely thank you all for your time, comments and mental effort.
    Mike
     
  2. Brett DiMichele

    Brett DiMichele Producer

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    And what exactly is "Mentally comparing" ?

    If one is to leave one's ears at the door, then the only response someone can post is "Yes I heard those, and yes sound came out of the speakers".

    *shrugs*

    Good luck Mike
     
  3. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    Well, I own Swan Diva 5.1's which are designed more for HT than music (they have the same drivers as the C3 center) and from a build quality/value standpoint I'm quite happy with them. An excellent value and they're built like a tank but it would be unfair to compare them to some of the other much more expensive speakers on your list. I got them on-sale in Black Cherry vinyl for $549 shipped (reg $719) from OzHomeTheater.com along with the C3 and 2.1's. The 5.1's are no longer available and the 6.1's ($849 in BC shipped) are out of stock.

    As for their sound quality, I would say they are just a bit on the....oops, I almost forgot, leave my ears at the door.

    I don't know much, if anything, about the other speakers you mentioned, but the Vandersteens and Salks seem to have very enthusiastic owners.





    .
     
  4. SHS

    SHS Stunt Coordinator

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    Unless you do a side by side comparison in the same room under exactly the same conditions you will most likely get a skewed opinion.

    The room, the equipment that drives the speakers, the source material, your mood, all of these and more are variables that will skew your judgement and the actual performance.

    I guess I am not sure what you are asking for. Good, great and best are all subjective to the listeners experience....the only way I know how to experience output from a speaker is to use my ears. You can measure waves and graph them but much like a color printed/painted piece, unless you experience the image you did not experience the event, you only measured a section of it.

    To ask "what is the best speaker?" is like asking "who is the best artist?" I hate to oversimplify this but it is purely a personal choice. The right choice for me was the sound I enjoyed and the cabinet I liked at the cheapest available price.

    So, even though I don't consider myself an audiophile for other peoples standards, I am most certainly an audiophile for my standards. I cannot give an opinion of any of the speakers you mentioned as every one that I have heard in your list was experienced with my ears. You come into a forum that is based on peoples opinions and say leave your opinions out of it. In this case you should only compare the audio response graphs produced by the speaker companies' advertising for your choice - with these qualifications.
     
  5. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    To my ears, Paradigm Monitor 9s were the best speaker at the time. That's why I bought them.

    We can throw out opinions all day, but in the end, you will be living with the speakers, so audition as many as you can and get what sounds good to you.
     
  6. troy evans

    troy evans Screenwriter

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    James, those B&W685 speakers are going to be hard to beat. My experiences with a friends B&W speaker setup left me stunned. They are just incredible speakers. If it were me buying, I'd look no further than those. Now, wether that's a good or bad thing is what comes into play with personal preferences. They would give "ME" all I needed. However, some can be satisfied with far less and better speakers than those are more than likely out there as well. Truth is, there isn't a definitive answer to your question as everyone's opinions will vary.
     
  7. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    Thanks all for the good input. By saying "leave your ears at the door" What I mean is by looking at my selections and comments could you TRY to put your self into my reference. IE say I really like a particular speaker and you don't but you have heard other speakers that you don't like for the same reasons. That may be one I need to look at or just the other way around. Your thoughts are appreciated and I am sorry for any mis-understandings. The ability to do something like I am asking is not easy for some and I understand, as we all have choices that we like for ourselves.
    ... I went out yesterday and auditioned a lot of B&W's at a store that had them all lined up so we could switch from one to the other. As far as they went I found a hard choice. The 685 with a center, or the 684 with center and last but not least the 683 with no center (1500.00 budget) the 85 and 84'2 sounded pretty much the same just a fuller on the 648. The 683 was a different dog altogether as it had a much flatter precise response and sound. A little like a CameroZ28 and a Corvette[​IMG] Both very good and fast but different. Then I went to audition a Vandersteen 2Ce SigII. Now that’s a horse of a different color for sure. Very open with a very large pleasing sound field (good for HT) the absolute sweet spot was rather small though. The clarity was good enough that (as a guitar player for 40+ years) I could tell you what guitar the artist was using. They are kinda ugly compared to some (Handsome my mother would say) and they are bulky with large footprint, and look rather dated, terminal post and all, along with being fussy with the equipment married to them. Jeeze I think I just described my-self. I wonder if I could give them a good home? I could only give them 14" out from wall and one side of each would be against a new slim line DLP, so not covered but there non the less. Other sides good breathing room as each has a hallway. Get the pic[​IMG]?
     
  8. Dan Driscoll

    Dan Driscoll Supporting Actor

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    The B&W's are excellent speakers, I like them a lot. But it comes down to personal preference and I just like the Vandersteen sound better than anything else close to that price range. But again, it's personal preference, I can easily understand why someone else would prefer the B&W's.
     
  9. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    Well I'm gettin down to the nut cuttin as we say on the farm
    Vandersteen 2Ce SigII
    Rocket 850
    Salk Song Tower
    B&W 683
    not nessarly in that order
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I am a big Vandersteen fan, FWIW. Most of the reasons you clearly heard already. Their imaging is quite good. You do have to give them room to breathe for best results. B&W has throngs of enthusiastic fans, but they've never really done it for me.
     
  11. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    Well, Susan, (the best side of me and the WAF comptroller in my life), and I got up early and went out to audition the Totem Hawks today. She has never auditioned any speakers, nor given to understanding or belief of what I was talking about when I did. We took along some of her favorite music, (“The Elegance of Pachelbel”), along with my standard reference songs that I have already listed. We went to the B&W dealer first, where understanding what listening to good music on good equipment, was reveled to her and the light of understanding came to her eyes and ears as we reviewed the 685,684,683,704,805,and the 804. I had her rate them all on my sheet. I will come back to this later.
    Then we went to listen to some Totems and ended up meeting one of the most hospitable, gracious, knowledgeable persons I have ever had the pleasure of making an acquaintance with. For an old Texas boy that’s saying A LOT!
    His name is Don Krasen, owner of Krystal Clear, in Dallas. He has been in business here for 20+ years, so he is the real deal. Well, Don did not have the Totem Hawks in stock but he had the Totem Arro and the Totem Rainmaker. We would have likely auditioned more, but we just could not stop discussing with Don all the intricacies of system applications and the holistic ability of the synergy of the parts which can add up to over 100% of the realization of the end product, if done properly. He never once tried to move us beyond our budget or ruin us for life by letting us listen to something we could not afford. Goggle his name and you will see, he had the power to do so. What an education Susan and I had TOGETHER today!
    Now to the Totem Arro. We were totally amazed at the sound that such a small footprint speaker could put out. It uses the Transmission Line enclosure to accomplish this.
    Specs are
    Break in time:100 - 150 hours
    Placement from rear wall:6" - 3' / 152 - 914 mm
    Placement distance apart:2' - 12' / 610 - 3 658 mm
    Mass Loading:10 - 20 lb / 4.5 - 9 kg in each cabinet
    Frequency Response:40 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB (with proper room positioning)
    Impedance:4 ohms
    Sensitivity:87 dB
    Recommended Power:20 - 80 W
    Crossover frequency:2.4 kHz, 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley (optimized)
    Woofer:4.5" / 114 mm sandwich cone double magnet”
    Tweeter:1 impregnated textile dome 0.75" / 19 mm (low resonance freq.)
    Max SPL's:In average size listening room (12' x 20' / 4 m x 6 m)103 dB peak (12' x 15' / 3 658 x 4 572 mm) from pair at 7' / 2 m
    Dimensions (w x h x d):5.1 x 33.5 x 7.1" / 130 x 850 x 180 mm
    We drove both the Arro and Rainmaker speakers in stereo only with an Acram 50w per channel solid-state amp. These little towers would do anyone justice with a small to mid size room without a sub at normal listening levels. When you try to drive them hard, however, we found the highs become too fatiguing. We both felt that they were very forward in sound with a large and definitive sound stage with excellent dynamics. What else can you ask of a speaker of this size? Well, it delivers what you ask in spades and then some for the price point.
    I just found out after all these years that Susan, (I gave her the remote and gave her the sweet spot all day), likes to drive it to reference volume! When I asked her why, she told me “It sounds like the performers are right there in front of you!” Guess that says something about my current system, as it has been rare, that she has even listened to any music on it!!
    Next the Totem Rainmaker
    Specs

    Break in time:70 - 100 hours
    Placement from rear wall:1' - 3' / 305 - 914 mm
    Placement distance apart:4' - 8' / 1 219 - 2 438 mm
    Frequency Response:42 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
    Impedance:4 ohms minimal
    Sensitivity:87.5 dB/W/m. Maximum sound pressure before dynamic compression
    Recommended Power:30 - 100 W
    Crossover frequency:2.3 kHz, 2nd order
    Woofer:5.5" / 140 mm
    Tweeter:1" / 25 mm aluminum dome, chambered
    Dimensions (w x h x d):6.8 x 14 x 9.1“ / 173 x 355 x 230 mm
    Volume:9 l (internal)
    Weight:5.8 kg (approx. 12 lb)
    Recommended stand:TOTEM T4S

    We both found this speaker to be a bit colored, but very smooth and responsive, with a pleasing high even at Reference level. More laid back would be the term I believe, without loss of soundstage or spaciousness. We both felt it was a little like a B&W 685 with more extended highs with better decay. Once again, good bass to the point in a small venue no sub would be needed. Just not enough dynamics to suit our preferences. Don apologized for not having the Hawks for us, but explained that the sound would be a happy marriage of the Arro and the Rainmaker. Alas, we still need to find a pair to audition. However, this is a good thing, as we find this to be a fun and enlightening experience to share!
    Susan’s take on the day was just like mine. The B&W’s won so far today for what we listened to, not so for what they did great, (because they did nothing great), but for the fact of they did everything good. The others were great in some points but failed in others. Does that make sense? It’s kind of like a win by default.
    Now guys, listen up. My Sweetie had a great time today! Why? Because I made sure not to interrupt her and let her ask her own questions. Then, I made sure she always had the sweet spot along with the remote CONTROL. Never was I condescending answering any of her questions in private, and I asked her opinion of everything. Along with that, a fantastic lunch shared, and she got to play with some very expensive equipment, and, Viola!! You have an enthusiastic and understanding partner in your endeavors. Touché!! (The wine at lunch didn’t hurt either!!)
     
  12. Torgny Nilsson

    Torgny Nilsson Second Unit

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    I don't trust anyone who tells people that a speaker needs "break-in time". They all too often then go on to tell you that you need some expensive speaker cable to run your speakers. Both are myths. And so is the claim that you don't need a sub with floor-standers. I have never heard of any floor-stander that does not benefit from the addition of a sub, even in a small room.

    That being said, you seem to be doing a lot of things right: listening to as many speakers as you can find, bringing a wide variety of music with which you are very familiar, listening to the speakers you are interested in alone (as opposed to with a sub, surrounds, etc.) so you hear the speakers themselves and don't get confused by a sub, etc., spending time with each speaker, avoiding judging speakers based on DVDs (if a speaker is good with music, it will be good with a DVD; the only exception being a center speaker which needs to do well with dialogue so you should listen to it with both music and DVDs), etc. And you are auditioning a lot of good speakers. You are also considering internet speakers which is a good idea as they may give you a better bang for your buck (though they are harder to demo).

    Not knowing all the details, I suspect that you are perhaps failing to do the following: auditioning speakers above and below the price range you have in mind (it will educate you about what else is out there, what you really like and dislike, what compromises you are willing to make in sound reproduction, etc.), listening to your favorite speakers side by side (that is all too often impossible) or at least as close in time and location as possible as your brain/ear forgets sounds very, very fast.

    To give you a sense of where I am coming from, I have EFE T-60 floor-standing speakers, a timbre-matched C-2 center, timbre-matched T-22 surrounds, and an SVS cylinder sub. I listened to a lot of speakers before deciding on EFE and liked a lot of them. But nothing else, to my ear, matched the T-60 when price was considered (though EFE's T-36 came amazingly close given the price difference between the two). Though EFE is a semi-custom speaker maker (now located in Arizona), who usually only sells via the internet, I went to their office and demo'd their speakers in person (and, like you, brought my wife along with her favorite music as well as mine). All this is not to say that you should buy EFE, but just to let you know my biases.
     
  13. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    OK we got to San Antonio to check out some of the local pawnshops but really did not do much of anything, as we were having to good of a time relaxing and enjoying the sights, and great food. Guys if you ever want to take that Sig. Other somewhere to show her how romantic you’re other side can be this is the place! Left here and went to Party Town (Austin) where we found some Thiel 1.6s. I never had heard Thiels before and was looking forward to this. At the same time ran across some Spenders S5e speakers? I had never even heard of them before.
    The Thiels looked to be easy to drive (I thought it would be otherwise) The Tweeter was rather low, as these are not that tall of a speaker? The design is a lot different than anything we have looked at as they are slanted back to accommodate the time and phase coherency of the speakers. Kinda of an odd looking bird with a long slit on the front bottom. As to the tweeter, a tall person would probably want to put these on some sort of pedestal?
    Specs
    Bandwidth (-3 dB): 48 Hz-20 kHz; Amplitude Response: 50 Hz-20 kHz +/-2 dB; Phase Response: Minimum �10 degrees; Sensitivity: 90 dB@2.8 V-1m; Impedance: 4 ohms (3.0 ohms minimum); Recommended Power: 50-300 watts; Cabinet Dimensions: 9 inches wide x 11.5 inches deep x 35.5 inches high; Weight: 38 pounds
    They had excellent wide sound field and resolution of details with accurate imaging. Depth was very good also. It seems though that when the Misses ran up the volume they tended to get an uncomfortable brightness? To them. They also really need about 3ft. breathing room, which I don’t have. We drove them with a Denon 3809 on pure direct stereo.

    The Spender S5e
    These speakers are on the smallish side for a floor stander. The components seemed to be first rate. A Seas 1” fabric dome tweeter, and two individual 140mm Spendor drive units. One driver handles the midrange and upper bass. The second bass unit handles the very low frequencies and it is engineered to match the rear flow port.
    These are an easy listening speaker with good sound field and imaging. They sounded to us a little laid back on the high end and somewhat lacking on the low freq., but overall very accurate and didn’t mind being driven hard at all. The rear firing bass port once again forces placement problems for us.
    We were under whelmed. Needles to say we both are getting a little tired and really want to get back home—but empty-handed?! Also this is the reason for the brevity of the review, we listened to others to but they all fell short for one reason or another, weather it was the sound design of placement or price.

    Overall choice comparison so far would be:

    For sound alone Vandersteen Sig 3A. Bad No adequate room for them and ugly.

    Sound looks and usability Salk Sound Tower. Bad Over my budget and can’t find one used to fit my pocket book.

    Price and sound: B&W 683. Bad Just a little too laid back and kinda cheap looking. (I do not have a dark AV theater) Living room for ALL TO SEE WAF.

    So along with everything else we still have not found that SWEET DEAL but have a lead for this afternoon that maybe a good one!
     
  14. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Oooh, Thiel. You're in rarified air there. They do need a lot of room, excellent acoustics and warm power, but then they are as good as you will likely find. When they are driven properly, they are NEVER harsh, but it's not easy to accomplish. If you can't give them the space, you regrettably have to not consider them.
     
  15. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    Folks I know I have sinned[​IMG] so please forgive me. Here’s the rest of the story.


    Well we got to Austin and checked into my friends house, rested a few then went out and checked out the Thiel 1.6 then the Spender S5e as in my previous post. Then we bought some steaks and went back to my buds home to have a little cook up. He was out with his son watching him play baseball.
    Later, when they had gotten home and we had all eaten Susan and I were telling them about our travels. His son up and tells us about one of his baseball buds dad that was doing
    a big remodel on their home, and had a couple of speakers for sale as they were doing an AV in-wall install. I asked if he had a phone# and I called. When we got over there I ended up meeting a true brother in arms. He was in the midst of a very big re-model for sure. He had taken out the fireplace and replaced it with an electric one. Where the chimney had been was now a recess across the wall that he had installed a large DLP and on either side 2x5ft holes cut out that would be receiving his new in wall speakers, along with ceiling holes cut in with boxes to suspend his new surrounds for a 7/1. He also had a custom recess off to the side to take in his equipment, one of which was a pair of Cary 805Cs[​IMG] and a wireless music on demand (I gotta get one). He had his old speakers, turntable and amp (not the Cary’s) for sale he said, as he would not be needing them any longer.

    I have been cautioned and have learned that first impressions are dangerous. It's why speaker retailers are considered a want-a-be or used-to-be car salesman, because they know how to exploit the one-hour demo. It's only later, after you've lived with your purchase, that you find out it's a great source for listener fatigue, and you'd been seduced by its special attributes rather than by accuracy or naturalness or musicality. If anything, I think you would want to err on the side of politeness, in sharp contrast to spitty, edgy, nasty aggression (Gee, who does that remind me of?)(Not me I’m sure).! So we cranked them up with his Cary’s and spent some time shooting pool on a Beautifull Manhattan, Brunswick he had just acquired. He put on some Frank and Dino and Aretha, Peggy, Ray Charles and Ella and the voices were so realistic that Susan and I agreed it felt like you could just reach out and touch them. I also pulled out my reference CD’s that have some particular high freq. cuts that have given many so far a problem (Brian Setzer Live in Japan) I couldn't get them to spit or sizzle, and yet never did I feel that the top end was lacking. Now these speakers have metal tweeters and what veteran metal tweeter haters will find so disconcerting is that we found them smooth, sweet and velvety - almost a complete denial of metal tweeter values. But I suspect that part of the effect was the speaker's room-filling dispersion. With no head-clamped-in-a-vice hot-seat effect, there was a seamless, wall-to-wall sonic stage, with a texture and depth, which can only be described as 'silky smooth', and warm and caressing with no upper-frequency nastiness. Yes a little colored but in a good way that leaves everything clean and accurate. More than once, I heard an instrument play way off axis and the bass while not strong or thumping was, or just, felt “just right”. Susan and I, both of our own separate accord came to the conclusion that these were just right. They did not interpret but were merely a conduit for the music in a most pleasing and realistic way. I had heard that you have to be careful with the front-end equipment with these speakers and that worried me no little bit, as all I have is a Denon 2808, but my new friend said that it should not be a problem and it has proven with proper placement and sub settings he was right.
    We came to the point of an offer, and when he spoke first I took it. No Haggle. I was tired[​IMG]
    1200.00 inc. a 10ft. pair of Audioquest DBS BI-Wire and a pair of lead shot and sand filled stands from the Mfg.(the speakers were attached with a special adhesive and bolted to these stands and he said he was not taking them off, so they weighed about 100lbs. Each)



    Specifications:

    Description: 2-way vented-box system
    Drive units: 1x 1-inch aluminum dome high-frequency, 1x 6.5-inch woven Kevlar cone bass / midrange
    Frequency range: -6dB at 42Hz and 50kHz
    Frequency response: 49Hz - 22kHz ±3dB on reference axis
    Dispersion: within 2dB of reference response
    Horizontal: over 60º arc
    Vertical: over 10º arc
    Sensitivity: 88dB spl (2.83V, 1m)
    Harmonic Distortion: 2nd and 3rd harmonics – 90dB, 1m,
     
  16. troy evans

    troy evans Screenwriter

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    Instead of you finding your speakers, it seems that your speakers found you. When fate conspires like that you can't help but feel it's destined. I think you made a great choice. And yes, that was a great price as well. Well done brother. [​IMG]
     
  17. Dan Driscoll

    Dan Driscoll Supporting Actor

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    Congratulations! [​IMG]

    Your story is not too dissimilar to how I found my Vandys, so I understand very well. When it really is right you just know it. [​IMG]
     
  18. olddog

    olddog Auditioning

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    Thats the truth! After you listen to a range of speakers it gets to the point you know in the first 1 min. if they are contenders or not. Then if so, you start listening and looking at the details.[​IMG]
     
  19. Mike_J_D

    Mike_J_D Stunt Coordinator

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    805s are wonderful speakers; the shop I use to work at had a set and I use to listen to them on my breaks. Well done and great choice!
     

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