NOTE: After much consideration and Mr Clack's approval, I have decided to post my review here as well. Greetings! First of all I want to apologize for the many delays but this was much time consuming than what I thought. I wanted to make sure that I had enough time with each speaker to have a solid opinion. So...lets start shall we? Disclaimer I dont claim to be an audiophile or anything like that but I have been involved with music since I can remember. I started playing the acoustic guitar when I was 5 thanks to my dad. Later I started playing piano (not a lot) and finally started to do what I love the most professionaly...sing! I travel with a very famous latin band and experienced live percussion, trumpets, sax, etc...during rehersal and the actual shows to really know how those instruments sound. In any case, sound is very subjective so my experience here should not be taken as the final word on this speakers and their performance. I will always recommend to try for yourself but since thats not always possible..well here is my very own humble opinion. Equipment: Receiver: Harman Kardon AVR-635 DVD/CD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 and Computer (X-FI Fatal1ty) Radio Shack SPL and AVIA Music used for evaluation: *Mostly latin music which will be specified later on *Drawn to the Rhythm by Sarah Mclachlan *The Gentleman who Fell Milla Jovovich *DTS Bass Test (Techno) *Star Wars Intro and Ending theme *King Kong HD *Batman HD (Dolby TrueHD) *Fast and the Furious HD *Italian Job HD *Plus others Companies participating I want to thank all 3 companies willing to do this. Its nice to see companies so confident on their products. Special thanks to Mark Schifter for sending me the X-SLS, I feel honored. *HTD *Onix (av123) *Premier Acoustics Speakers Tested HTD HTD LEVEL 3 Center $179 HTD LEVEL 3 TOWER $699/pr Premier Acoustics PA-6F $299.00/pr PA-6B $229.00/pr PA-6C $189.00 Onix Onix X-CS $139.00 Onix X-SLS $319.00/pr This tower is still under development and this is still not a final verison but seems to be close. Packaging: HTD Excellent packaging that survive the usual UPS attack. I dont know if someone tried to make a joke but one of the tower had actual footprints like someone stand on it wearing boots! Still the dual box and full size foam protected the speakers and no dents or damages. Plain looking box. Onix Excellent as well. Double box and foam although not full size, still protected the speakers from any damage. Plain looking box. Premier Acoustics Most colorful box with the speaker image. Single box and ok padding could be a problem but to be fair, they came in perfect condition. Evaluation for Music: * Song: Madrigal by Christian Castro HTD Level 3 Center Huge soundstage and precise imaging. Very realistic sounding nylon acoustic guitar and very emotive violin solo. Good bass but not a lot (not a bass driven song). Christian's voice sounds very natural and clear. The enviroment it created is more concert like as the soundstage is deep and the imaging seems to have nice layering . Very good performance. [Onix X-CS Big soundstage but not as big as the HTD Center. Great imaging with easy to pinpoint instruments. The violin solo again is very moving and the guitar sounds very realistic with a touch less of the high smooth sound of the HTD ribbon but with a little more mid body to it. Christian's voice sounded natural. Very good performance but the extra frequency capability of the HTD makes the sound a bit fuller. Onix X-SLS Great mids just as the Center. The soundstage seems wide (wider than the x-ls) but not as deep as the HTD Center. Just as the Center , the sound is more upfront compared to the more laidback HTD Center. Good bass performance at least on par with the HTD and more and better than the X-CS. Christian's voice sounds very natural if a bit to upfront. Very good performance and better than when I auditioned the X-LS. Premier Acoustic Tower Christian's voice sounds nasal. After experiencing the Onix and HTD, the PA tower's soundstage just collapsed...everything seems constricted to the center. It also sounds very flat with no layering. Imaging is not good either..like all instruments are really close together. The violin wasnt that bad but not as moving as with the Onix or HTD. I noticed some distortion in Chrisitan's voice at the end of the song. Bad performance that made me think the bookshelf will be even worst but... Premier Acoustic Bookshelf Incredibly enough, the bookshelf has a much bigger soundstage than the tower. Its actually almost as big as the HTD and Onix. Imaging is way better than the tower as well. Compared to the tower's constricted soundstage..this sounds so much bigger. The sound is a bit thin and bass is absent for the most part. The violin sounds ok as does the guitar but I heard the same distortion with the voice at the end of the song that the tower had...lacking balance perhaps? Good performance specially when compared to the tower but its already apparent that the PAs are not in the same league of refinement that the HTD and Onix are. Insignia Simply put...HORRIBLE! Its totally nasal, it lacks highs, mids and detail. Soundstage and imaging are really bad as well and there is vail to the overall presentation that makes me wonder what was I thinking when I put up with this speakers for more than a day! I wont comment any more on the Insignias...they are that bad! Yes they are cheap and could serve a purpose....but not in my room. *Song: Ya para que by Juan Gabriel (Mariachi style) HTD Center Great imaging (separation) of the trumpet (left channel), guitar (center) and violins (right). Awesome trumpet with that extra bite that I like and heard so many times during rehersals. The balance is very good with a wide sounstage and also very deep. Juan's voice sounds very good but its has a bit too much echo (it was recorded like that). I think this one is a win for the HTD. Onix X-CS Great trumpets with very good body and just lacking a tad of that extra bite that the ribbon tweeter gives it..still, excellent. I love the violins as well and they sound like separate violins playing together not just a mesh. Voice has a bit too much echo but again, is a recording issue. The guitars are also very nice sounding with good bass and to top it all it also delivers a big soundstage. Excellent performance. Onix X-SLS Just like the X-CS but with a few things that need to be mentioned. The bass is bigger than the HTD Center but the mids seem a bit too prominent on this one...not as balanced as the HTD or X-CS. The guitar sounds better than the X-CS due to the added bass performance of the speaker. Very good performance just a bit strong on the mids. I didnt have spikes for this one so I am sure that hurt it quite a bit. Premier Acoustics Tower Muffled trumpets sound very bad. The bass is good but the mids again show distortion. The soundstage again is non existant compared to the HTD, Onix or even the PA bookshelf. The whole sound has that nasal or cupped hand sound. There is no clarity and really nothing to praise here. Very bad again...I am not sure whats the problem but this tower is not performing at all. Honestly it sounds really boxy. Premier Acoustics Bookshelf The trumpet sounds better here but there still a bit of distortion with mids. Again, iimaging and soundstage is way better than the tower. Its a wide soundstage but unfortunately is flat. Juan Gabriel's voice sounds nasal but at least the whole presentation is clearer than the tower. Decent performance when put against the PA tower. I will keep adding more comments and evaluation details soon but here is what basically summarizes my findings. HTD Level 3 Center Again, and excellent performer...I dont know if its breakin but the soundstage and imaging seems deeper now. The highs are smooth but never harsh. The mids are great as well but in one song it was a bit laid back and I liked the Onix X-CS a bit better on that particular song (Seras Mia by Javier Garcia). The bass is very good for a bookshelve/center and can be used without a sub for MUSIC not movies. So my favorite things about this speaker are: * Huge, wide and deep sounstage and very precise imaging. * Very smooth and ultra detailed highs...never harsh. * Good bass for music * MTM design is well executed * The mids are very clear and voices come out very natural * Makes everything seem like a live concert...that open space feeling its very nice and inviting. * Very refined speaker overall...it makes you want to listed to each whole song even when just doing demos. Onix[ X-CS Another excellent speaker. Very well balanced speaker that does nothing wrong in my book. It lacks bass and that makes it sounds not as full as the HTD center but the presentation is different enough to call for a side to side evaluation since not everyone like the same sound. The speaker doesnt lack highs but the ribbon tweeter (HTD) does have the advantage here. Is the mids this speakers strongest point. Very clear and detailed with great body to acoustic instruments like guitars and percussion. The bass is good but while there is not a lot of it, I do like it. When you consider the X-CS sells for $139/ea which is close to the price of the Premier Acoustic Bookshelf...honestly there is not a single reason I will recommend the PA over this one or over the $219/pr Onix X-LS. Now the HTD Center against this is a harder call to make. The HTD offers that kind of laidback deeper presentation that I like with the great highs and bigger bass but for some songs the more upfront mids on the Onix are a better fit. I still like the HTD over the X-CS but I will love either speaker and only side by side comparisons are able to make me notice this differences. I cant wait to try that new X-CS center edition! Things I like about it: *Very good soundstage (bigger than the x-ls) *Imaging is very precise *Very good highs and I didnt notice anything lacking at all *Superb mids that offer terrific detail *Good bass but I wouldnt use it without a sub *The MTM design is very well done here *Very balanced speaker (a bit better balanced than the x-ls) *Very refined speaker Onix X-SLS Even though this is a non retail version I can say that I really like this speaker. It may not have the same accuracy or balance as the X-CS but its getting there. Perhaps I have gotten used to the MTM design but I felt imaging was a tad more precise with the HTD and X-CS. I like the added bass that gives its overall presentation a fuller sound. For $319 this is almost magic. If the X-CS price compared to the PA Bookshelf was an easy call then this Tower compared to the PA tower is so much easier. This tower totally destroys the PA-6F. There is not a single thing the PA does better...this one is a no brainer. Now compared to the HTD tower my evaluation is almost the same as comparing the HTD to the X-CS except this time the X-SLS has a bit more bass (tight not boomy) but it lacks a bit of the precise imaging and bigger soundstage of the HTD. Again, a tower version of the X-CS is gonna be a great contender judging by the improvement on this X-SLS. What I like about it: *Great highs and lacks no detail *Superb mids *Very good tight bass *Good size soundstage (sometimes even very big) *Great imaging *Very good balance *Another refined speaker that defies its price Premier Acoustics Bookshelf I wish I had good things to say about each speaker but I have to call it the way I heard it. This thing sounding speaker had distortion in the mids, bright highs and no bass. Its redeeming factor is the big soundstage and decent imaging. Much better than the Insignia and PA tower but it costs almost 5 times as much as the Insignias...and unfortunately for it, the same as the much superior Onix X-LS. They may look like Klipsch (I dont like Klipsch harsh sound btw) but build quality is not up to par. Sorry for them because they were very eager to participate on this review but I have to tell what I heard. Probably the last time I review something like this cause I dont like to be cruel. Premier Acoustics Tower What a disaster. This is what happens when people think that making a MTM speaker is just a matter of putting drivers in their respective holes on the cabinet. There is nothing good about this speaker....even the bass is a tad boomy. No soundstage, no imaging, distortion...you name it. If you own this HT setup try using the bookshelves as mains and compare their soundstage and imaging capability to the towers...you will be surprised. At $300, when you can pick up, for about $100 more, a pair of Onix X-SLS or 2 of the HTD Level 3 centers and get 100 times better sonic experience...do yourself a favor and skip this tower. Somebody messed it up big time here. They should have tried using the same bookshelf layout with the tower cabinet. I need to rest now but I will continue updating tomorrow: BTW, I played with the HTD Level 3 towers today and in my short test..its on a league of its own in every department...highs, mids, bass you name it. The question is...is it worth $300 more than 2 x HTD Centers or the X-SLS....I will have a better answer tomorrow but if you want my current impression before hitting the bed...yes its worth it! SMALL UPDATE HTD Level 3 Tower review I thought about adding the Level 3 tower review to the previously reviewed speakers but when I started writing, as logic suggests, the comments began to sound almost the same. So, I decided to just talk about its performance in different areas and include some comments on the songs and movies used for evaluation. First of all lets talk about sounds quality. The tower speaker features a clarity that puts it above the other speakers reviewed previously. That added mid driver with all the great specs and tech behind it plus the dual 7" woofers truly deliver the upgrade in sound quality you would expect when paying at least $300 more than for the others speakers here. In the song Madrigal , for instance, the guitars and violins are so well defined and sonically reproduced that I just couldnt help but go with it and forget to do what I was supposed to be doing...evaluating the speakers! The guitar has that extra body that I mentioned in the Onix review but with the added high clarity of the HTD center...kind of the best of both worlds. To put this in perspective, the Onix X-CS/SLS and HTD center previously reviewed are superb speakers on their own and I wouldnt mind having them as my main speakers BUT the HTD tower is so good that it steals the show from its outstanding counterparts. Everything that I raved about in my HTD center and Onix review the Tower does and does it better. The sound is a bit more forward than the HTD center I assume due to its mid driver and a little more lively. The soundstage is just as big as the HTD center but the imaging is even more precise and easier to pinpoint which is saying a lot when you consider the amazing job the HTD center does at that too. That extra mid driver is making a big difference here. Voices, like Christian's in Madrigal sound very natural as do acoustic instruments...the guitars and violins in "Ya para que?" where very realistic and the violin solo was moving. The HTD center still seem to have a slightly more laidback soundstage that gives me that extra "live concert" sound but the Tower seems to strike a finer balance between laidback and upfront...it just sounds right and naturally placed as do the instruments and voices in Drawn to the Rythm or Santana's Guajira (live recording). The bass, well that was to be expected, is a LOT bigger, controled and tight. I tried the DTS ultimate bass demo (techno track) and WOW, I was stunned by the pressure. Of course, it claims to hit 30hz @ +/- 3db and at least my RadioShack SPL seems to agree. Of course, for movies I will still use a sub since the action really starts below 30 or better yet 20hz. For music its just terrific. And speaking about movies, Batman Begins, MI3 and King Kong (all HD-DVD with Batman I used Dolby True HD) they all left something very clear...this speaker is not only amazing for music but also for HT use. Guns, explosions and dialogue (well thats my HTD center) are so well reproduced that you get totally immerse in the experience which is what this is all about isnt it? Panning didnt suffer from the difference in drivers used between the tower and center which was something that concerned me a bit. In King Kong, when the stones are falling in that wacky running thru the Dinosaurs' legs scene, they seem to be falling all around my room...you could actually kind of track the stones falling from the ceiling... obviously the brain was adding that extra info but still the effect was very cool. Everything has been great with this speakers and the only problem that I had with it was trying to decide where to place my HK avr635 microphone in order to do the Auto calibration.... best results where between the mid driver and woofer with the mic placed 2'-6" away from the speaker. If I had to find an easy way to summarize this speaker's performance will be, read my HTD center and Onix review and everything those great speakers do, the HTD tower does better...the question is, is it at least $300 better? Thats not really for me to decide...All I can say is that Im a very happy with my HTD center and would have been happy with the Onix as well but if you can afford the towers then go for them cause the extra refinement, clarity and imaging definition plus added bass and mid performance is a substantial step up from the other two speakers...mine are staying home so in my case the answer is, yes they are worth the extra $$$. Thanks for reading and sorry for the delay and incomplete report.... more updated to follow. I will clean it up tomorrow and spell check it too... Regards UPDATE Feb 08 2007: As Ive been comenting to some members, I decided to update this review after been living with the speakers for a longer time. Why do I need to update it? Because some things have changed and my views on some of the speakers are not the same. Why? I cant honestly say exactly why but I think is a combination of factors. Some of them are: #1 I have better electronics now #2 I have been using a higher end speaker (Strata Mini) thus got used to a higher quality and clean sound. #3 Perhaps not using the HTDs all the time kind of "rinse" my brain from expecting everything to sound like that. #4 The most probable answer is that I have been adding acoustic room treatment that makes is so much easier to find pros and cons in speakers that are normally hidden in a multitude of reflections, bad frequency response and lack of bass control. All this combined have been able to make me aware of things I couldnt notice before or didnt realize what it was. With all that said lets talk about the differences: Before you read, if you have the HTD Level 3 Center or Bookshelf and love their sound then PLEASE stop right here and do not continue reading. Why? Because, I dont want you to start looking for what I am about to describe and then not been able to enjoy your speakers anymore (if the same thing that happened to me happens to you that is). Due to the design on the HTD center and bookshelf there is a gap between about 5khz and 2khz that creates that laidback sound and thin mids when compared to other neutral speakers. It also seems to introduce some sort of distortion. It is easy to hear when listening to hi hats, cymbals. Instead of getting a clean sound it sounds "raspy". I have tried the HTD towers and they dont suffer from this problem as much mainly because they use a mid driver that allows HTD not to push the ribbon and woofers to frequencies they are not design to work at. The ribbon, at least at not too high volume levels do no suffer from much distortion or at least it sounds pleasing. Compared to the clean highs of a Strata Mini, they do sound a bit "dirty". Ive been told that when push a bit harder they get to distort more but I cant really test that until I move to a house (damn apartment living! lol ). So, to summarize, while in my previous review I gave a slight nod to the HTD center over the Onix X-CS...this time the nod goes to the X-CS. With all the changes in my room and gear, this speaker has become a much better one than when I tried it the first time. Imaging is very good and the mids which I though were a bit better than the HTD center are now much better. It has a more 3d soundstage as well but just not as wide. The sealed design plus better driver integration, imho, helps it to be a much cleaner sounding and precise speaker over the HTD center. It doesnt go as low but then again, both will need a sub anyway. So how does the X-SLS compares now to the HTD tower? Well, in my first review I made a BIG mistake of not using spikes with the SLS tower as I didnt have any spare ones. When I got my Minis, I started moving them around without spikes (almost 100lbs each) until I found a spot that I liked and then installed the spikes.... the difference was staggering. It made me realize that the slightly muffled sound and boomy bass I noticed (compared to the other speakers that is) was in fact cause by the lack of spikes in my problematic floor. I took the spikes off the HTD towers and tried them on the X-SLS and they became a different speaker. I am expecting some spikes for the SLS next week in order to have a formal review and comparison between them and the HTD towers. In the mean time, I will not comment on them. I still like the HTD tower but the Minis are, as anyone should expect, so much better. With the latest room treatment the difference has become even greater. Adding the XCD-99 CDP didnt hurt either plus a SACD/DVD-A (entry level though). This has been a learning experience for me (still is). Like Kyle will say " Ive learn something today". #1 I learned that you need time to really know what a speaker can and cant do. #2 Good electronics help to identify good and bad points with speakers. #3 Room acoustics are a MUST. You will never know what your speakers really can do or sound like untill you minimize the effect of the room. It makes it so much easier to tell the difference between speakers that I just hate myself for not doing this earlier. #4 Learning to "really listen" and identify what you are hearing takes some time. Well, next week I should be posting that X-SLS/ HTD tower review comparison update. Thanks for reading and any Qs...just ask.