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Need HT Speaker Guidance - Axiom, Ascend Acoustics, Rocket, Swan, Paradigm, Aperion!


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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Jonny K

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Posted September 06 2005 - 02:57 PM

The time has come for me to buy my 6.1 home theater speakers. My setup is using a Yamaha RXV-1300 Receiver which is capable of handling loads down to 4 Ohm on the main left and right speakers and 6 Ohm on the center and surround speakers. The receiver has a set 80 Hz subwoofer crossover which I can't change. I won't be needing to buy a subwoofer, since the first upgrade I made to my lowly home theater was a DIY 15" Adire Audio Tempest subwoofer which has performed beautifully. I'm looking to spend about 2500 Canadian dollars (2000 US Dollars). I have no preferences between bookshelf and floorstanding, although I will need to buy stands if I have bookshelf speakers. I don't care an awful lot about aesthetics either, sound quality is paramount. The system will be used for movies primarily, but music is definately important too.

My room is quite large. It measures 11 feet wide and 26 feet deep, square. I'm only using about half the room for the theater though, so the actual space I need to fill with sound is about 11 feet wide by 15 feet deep. This presents the problem of not having a rear wall in the theater. Perhaps I can have a rear speaker on a stand behind?

Researching speakers is very difficult. I've read multiple reviews on speakers from Axiom, Ascend Acoustics, Rocket, Swan, Paradigm, and Aperion. In all those reviews the speakers are always praised as being "Outstanding Value" and "Sounds as good as speakers costing 3X more!". It seems every review says this, which makes these statements absolutely meaningless to me.

Here are my initial observations:


Swan - Audio Insider:
www.theaudioinsider.com

Looks very good aesthetically, and it's in the price range. But the surround speakers are 4 Ohm, so I probably can't drive this. I can always use big floor standing speakers as the surrounds, but this just seems weird and overkill to have such huge speakers as surrounds.


Axiom Audio:
www.axiomaudio.com

Well reviewed speakers. I'd be getting the Epic 80 Home Theater without the sub and with an extra surround. Word has it these can be “bright” due to their titanium tweeters, and I've also heard my Yamaha receiver is “bright” - this could be an issue. Also, am I putting too much load on my receiver by putting 4 Ohm speakers as the mains? Hmmm...


Ascend Accoustics:
www.ascendacoustics.com

Looks very good, I'm leaning toward these. I would get a full set of CMT-340s (or whatever Ascend recommends). With the money I can save with Ascend speakers I will be able to buy a Behringer FeedBack Destroyer. And they're made with Aerogel! That's so cool!


Paradigm:
www.paradigm.ca

I haven't looked at Paradigm much for two reasons. First of all, their product lines are confusing. They have so many speakers in different categories, the “Performance” line, the “Monitor” line, the “Reference” line, and each with 10 or so different speaker choices. Can the higher end speakers in the “Performance” line outdo the lower end speakers in the “Monitor” line? Too confusing! Additionally, these are speakers sold through traditional retail channels, and I like the idea of saving money on internet-direct speakers.


Aperion Audio:
www.aperionaudio.com

I don't know a lot about these guys. They seem to have a nice looking product, and certainly a nice looking website. But there isn't a lot of exposure for their home theater speakers (I only recently heard of them) and I can't find any performance graphs. Any input?


AV123 – Rockets
www.av123.com

Very pretty speakers, in the same class as the Swans for aesthetics. Unfortunately the center channel they offer is a 4 Ohm speaker which my receiver won't drive, so I've pretty much ignored Rockets.



Here's the question - what are the best speakers I can buy for a 6.1 system for 2000 US excluding a subwoofer? I know Ascend Acoustic's 340 (and 170) series speakers are supposed to sound great...but compared to what? Do they sound great to the average joe, or do they sound great to an audiophile? I'm looking to buy direct over the internet without an audition, so I want to make sure this purchase is well researched.


Thanks,


Jonny K

#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Nhan_H

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Posted September 06 2005 - 10:49 PM

Don't count out the Rockets because of the listed specs of the center speaker. I have it hooked up to my Yamaha RX-V2200 (along with the RS550s and RS250s and UFW10) and it drives the speakers to insane levels effortlessly!

You're asking for trouble when you ask others to provide opinions to form a decision for yourself--esp. when it comes to speakers Posted Image I'm sure there are some owners of rockets/ascends in Calgary???? You can post a request for demos at their respective sites. Rocket-Canada was supposed to have taken off either recently or sometime in the near future. This would save you some bucks with the shipping/border charges. You might give them a call to see what your options are.

Also, Axiom is canadian-based, but internet-direct. I'm sure there are quite a few axioms owners in Canada.

#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Ian C

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Posted September 06 2005 - 11:34 PM

I'm in pretty much the same position as you. My advice would be to narrow it down to two or three (you seem to have already done this to some extent), and then order either a pair or the center for those two or three. I've narrowed it down to Swan and Ascend for various reasons - fairly easy to drive, come in colors the wife approves of (ummm, blackish), and are described as being "neutral."

In the next couple weeks, I'm thinking of ordering the center speaker for both Ascend (the 340) and Swan (the C3 BC) and compare them against each other. I'll be out the cost of shipping the one I don't like (probably around $30), but I'll feel better about my decision. It's also possible I won't like either one, so they may both go back. We'll see.

Anybody else compare just the centers before making a decision on these internet brands? My reasoning is this:

- It should give me a good feel for the character of their other speakers.
- It's probably slightly cheaper to ship back a center (maybe not in the case of the Swan C3).
- I'm sick of not being able to understand dialogue during action scenes, and so my choice of center may be more important than the other speakers. Posted Image

#4 of 50 OFFLINE   BradJudy

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Posted September 07 2005 - 01:04 AM

Ian's advice is good and getting only the center for demo is a good idea if: -you already have other HT speakers (listening to a movie with only a center is a bit weird) -you will use your system for movies more than 50% of the time If you listen to music 50% or more of the time, I recommend trying a pair of main speakers instead. Also, most receivers have a 'phantom center' mode you can try for movies.

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Quinn

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Posted September 07 2005 - 01:21 AM

Ian have you tried the Ascend forum for owners in the DFW area willing to let you listen?

I know there is an Ascend owner in Edmonton, Alberta.

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Ian C

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Posted September 07 2005 - 03:14 AM

Chris, I've actually considered that, and I did see somebody on the Ascend forum that lives here in Allen...but I figure with a 30-day trial it's worth the cost of shipping to try it in my own setup. I've listened to a lot of speakers at a lot of different stores, and have liked different qualities about most of them (except their prices). In particular, I liked Paradigm and M&K. I regularly see Ascends compared to those, so it seems a natural choice to try. Posted Image

BradJudy...You're right, I'm strictly thinking from a home theater standpoint. Somebody with more of a lean to music probably would want to order a set of mains to try.

#7 of 50 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted September 07 2005 - 03:58 AM

Again don't let the Ohm load scare you out of the Rockets. They have some pretty good deals going on now that are not up on the web yet. Give them a call and they will guide you and not oversell you at all. Very laid back bunch of guys. It will be worth the call whether you get Rockets or not.. You will learn a lot... Good luck MikeL

#8 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Quinn

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Posted September 07 2005 - 04:09 AM

I think you are very wise to want to audition in your space, with your equipment, at your own pace.

#9 of 50 OFFLINE   Nhan_H

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Posted September 07 2005 - 04:26 AM

Ian. Let me know if you want to listen to the Rocket RSC200. I'd like to listen to the Ascend 340 center when you get it. I've heard them as mains used for music, but not as a center. I can bring the 200 over to your place (or vice versa) if you'd like.

#10 of 50 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted September 07 2005 - 05:09 AM

Great idea to check both out as each has a bit different sound qualities. Everyone has their own ears and thats what keeps all of this going. We have folks over at av123.com that have Axioms and several other brands as well in different rooms.

#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Jonny K

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Posted September 07 2005 - 07:19 AM

The problem I face is that I'm short on time. I start University in another week and my tight schedule will make auditioning multiple speakers difficult. Additionally, all my life I've been listening to very plain and ordinary speaker systems, so I'm sure that any one of these will be a huge leap forward. Regarding the Rockets, even if I were to run 4 Ohm speakers on my receiver (which I'm uneasy to do) I would still have to wait for the South American Rosewood RS550 MKII speakers to become avaliable again (they're sold out). It could take a while to get these, and time is short. I'll still send them an e-mail though. Jonny K

#12 of 50 OFFLINE   mackie

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Posted September 07 2005 - 12:07 PM

I'd recommend a Paradigm setup because you can actually hear it before you buy it. Paradigm does have a wide range of speakers, but they are all good. The Atoms and mini-monitors get lots of praise. Many dealers will let you take a pair home to listen to and they don't charge you to return them. I own a pair of Swan 4.1s and have been disappointed with them. I bought into the hype of internet direct and a 30 day return policy. I read post after post of how the swans compare to the Paradigm Studio series which I also own, but that is simply not the case. With dispersion, imaging, and detail the Paradigms win hands down. The 4.1s don't sound bad, and you get what you pay for. However, they aren't the massive bang-for-the-buck speakers some claim. A word of warning about ID speakers. They come in huge boxes. Unless you have a truck, large van or something you can put very large boxes you, can't get these things back to the UPS store in the original packaging. I have a Honda Accord. There was no way for me to pack up the speakers and take them to UPS or Fed Ex for a return....

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   Nhan_H

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Posted September 07 2005 - 12:37 PM



How is this different from the speakers sold in the stores? They, too, come in boxes, right? How do you propose to get them back to the store if you don't like what you've heard?

If you're looking for a 5.1 system, order just the center to get a feel for how the system will perform, since much of the movie information goes thru the center. Most cars can fit at least a center channel, if you need to return it Posted Image Don't know about your accord, but mine was able to fit a pair of towers (and their boxes) in the back seat. This may be a different story when I upgrade to an Infiniti G35 Posted Image

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   AlanZ

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Posted September 07 2005 - 12:40 PM

I'd like to echo what Mackie said....Speakers are the one part of my home theater that I really prefer to purchase from a B&M. Ideally you'll have a local stereo guy who has a nice selection of quality stuff who also offers some sort of upgrade policy. I've been pretty loyal to my local guy for the past several years, and he's 98% likely going to get more of my business when I upgrade to bigger Maggies. Now this isn't to say that I'm not a fan of internet brands, cause I own gear from Outlaw, SVS, and BlueJeans Cables....I just look at speakers a little differently and I really like the local option better. As for Paradigm, they are a great SAFE speaker choice. They offer a good solid value and they're great for both music and HT. There are obviously lots of other good options too, though.
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#15 of 50 OFFLINE   mackie

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Posted September 07 2005 - 01:47 PM

The difference is that I can see the speaker at the B&M store, so I know what I'm getting. The swain 4.1s came double boxed and were larger than a standard 5 drawer file cabinet. At the B&M store, I can take the speaker out of the box and take them home, or the dealer can let me borrow a floor sample. The audio insider website does not mention how large the boxes are and that they won't fit in most cars which can make returning them difficult. I agree with AlanZ that ID can be a good thing. I too own Outlaw gear and will buy from them again in a heartbeat. Best advice I can give is to listen, listen, listen and buy what you like.

#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Chuck_W

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Posted September 07 2005 - 01:54 PM

Jonny,

My room dimensions are very similar to yours and I found myself looking for a way to mount a center rear speaker in the middle of the room. I ended up making a ceiling mount with an old shelf I cut in two pieces and a couple of steel braces...it kind of simulates a rear wall surface and has worked out well for me. I'm sure you could find "normal" ceiling mounts as well. You can see pictures of my DIY mount here:
http://swbg1.tripod....eaker_mount.htm

I recently switched to Ascend speakers and I've been very happy with them. I'm not an audiophile or expert of any sort, but if you want to read my impressions they are posted here:
http://swbg1.tripod....nd_speakers.htm

#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Nhan_H

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Posted September 07 2005 - 04:08 PM




It used to be true with ID brands, but now that the business has grown so much, it's not unlikely that you can't find someone near you with an ID speaker that you can request a demo from. I'm sure you ordered with the intention of keeping them, since there was so much "hype" surrounding these speakers, as you stated.

It's good that you can provide advice of what to look for, so that others can avoid the same mistake. Sometimes we research things and there are things that we fail to take into account. In your case, it's how big the boxes are vs. what your car can accomodate. I'm sure this question would have been answered right away if you were to ask, but again, I'm sure you weren't thinking of the remote possibility of returning the product. Not sure how UPS was when you made your return, but I think you can schedule a UPS pick up these days.

Some ID companies provide free shipping both ways and all will refund your money within 30 days if you're not satisfied. Of course shipping is not really free Posted Image

I'm not sure what the policy at the B&M regarding returns are, but I believe some do charge a restocking fee, since they will have to sell those returned items as b-stocks. For those that don't charge this fee, the cost is passed on to the next customer. I'm not against B&M, I really do like them, but you do have to establish a purchasing relationship before discounts are given. Also, I'd rather not have to pay for the all overheads that are needed to keep a B&M in business. But whatever makes others happy is up to them.

Also, it is really nice to be able to borrow the B&M's stuff (if they do allow loans) to demo in your home, but you have to drive the speakers both ways. With ID, the speakers get shipped to you (and now you can even schedule pickups). With the cost of gas these days, shipping charges don't seem like they're that much Posted Image

#18 of 50 OFFLINE   Jonny K

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Posted September 10 2005 - 07:24 PM

Ok, an update. Today I went with a friend for an audition at a Paradigm dealer. Based on my budget, the dealer recommended the "Monitor System 3" configuration using Monitor 7 fronts and a CC-370 center. The audition went well, and things sounded good. But since these are the first speakers I've heard it's somewhat hard to compare right now. Also, while waiting for the audition room to be free we had the opportunity to listen to a pair of S4's (from the Signature Series). Very nice speakers, but when I asked the price they told me $3400 CAN for a pair. :-O I sure wish Paradigm would publish their prices! When talking to the dealer I mentioned that I was also looking at internet direct speakers. Immediatly he shot me down saying "oh no, don't do that". He went on about how it will be a service and support nightmare. I don't really believe what he says as he's simply protecting his own interests. But I also thought the service was lacking. When my friend and I walked in the door (it's a small place) they basically ignored us until all the other customers had left. We just stood there, and they didn't even acknowledge our entrance. Then when the guy was examining my room layout it seemed more like he was lecturing me and less like helpfull advice. And he even tried to convince me to buy two rear surrounds instead of just one, since one looks silly or stupid (I forget the word he used). But I only have a 6.1 receiver! Re-examining the situation, I'm now leaning heavily towards Axiom. The reason being, they are Canadian, so I won't have to pay any horrid border taxes or duties. What if I buy speakers from a US company, ship them out here, don't like them and ship them back? It could be a duty nightmare. If I stay in Canada I can avoid that. Additionally, for my budget I can get the Axiom Epic 80 speaker setup which seems much more substancial when compared to the Paradigm speaker setup I auditioned today. It looks like the internet direct speakers could be a much better value. Jonny K

#19 of 50 OFFLINE   AlanZ

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Posted September 10 2005 - 08:54 PM

It's definitely a shame that the guy made you feel the way he did. Completely understandable why it rubbed you the wrong way. There are a lot of people who love their Axiom speakers, so maybe that's the right choice for you, too... I have a much different situation with my local shop. They work with customers ranging from the guy looking for a pair of $189 Atoms all the way up to the pro athlete (Alpharetta, GA is the home of quite a few famous NFL, NBA, and MLB players) looking to drop 100k on an HT install. Whatever money I spend on gear with them today, I have a year to get full credit toward an upgrade if I so desire. As for the added expenses of dealing with a retail shop vs. buying factory direct, I have absolutely no problem with that. They are taking their time in order to provide me not only with demo opportunities, but also in terms of advice and instruction. As a consumer, I'm glad that we have options such as buying over the internet. But I have no problem at all paying a small premium on my speaker purchases and supporting my local audio shop. Having that option available to me is worth much more than the little bit of extra money I would save by buying over the internet. Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to discourage you from purchasing from an internet vendor. As I said above, I do that too. I just want to present the other side of the coin to you since the guy you went to see obviously dropped the ball by seeing you as a dollar sign instead of a valued customer.
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#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Parker Clack

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Posted September 10 2005 - 10:06 PM

Jonny: I haven't perssonally heard the 80 series from Axiom but from those people I have stated that they own them I have heard nothing but good things about them. Also, like you said, being in Canada is another assett for them as you won't have to pay all those taxes, etc. Give them a call and see what their return policy is like so that you can test them out in your own place and if you don't care for them return them. I don't envy your position. Buying new speakers is such a personal experience and is very subjective.

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