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Diva Swan 2.1, Axiom M22ti, [your fave here] - what's the finest budget bookshelf?


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#1 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 08 2002 - 06:47 AM

....Paradigm, Polk, JBL, etc.



Cheap Home Theater compares the Diva 2.1, Axiom M3 (not the more lauded/expensive M22), nOrh 4.0, Ascend Acoustics CBM-170, and HTM-200 Home Theater Direct Level III here: http://www.cheaphome...er Shootout.htm



[quote]

[W]e didn't have much of a problem crowning a champ in our shootout. The Swan Diva speakers stood above the crowd. Of course, their price tag is higher than most of the other speakers, but they justify that cost with their tremendous sound. Couple the great sound with the great looks, you've got a winner that we have no problem crowning as our champion.

[quote]


(Again, CHT did NOT compare the Diva 2.1 against the Axiom M22.)



While I'd love to hear the nOrh's, my wife has already expressed distaste for any speakers that "look like an Easter ham", and so I'm currently looking into the Axiom M22s and Swan Diva 2.1s (both of which got the thumbs-up from the spouse). Here are my thoughts thusfar:



Extrapolating from various reviews, I'd tend to think the Diva 2.1 offers nicer bass than the M22. And, while it's largely a matter of taste, I think the silk-dome tweeter in the Diva 2.1 will appeal to me more than the titanium tweeter in the Axiom. The consensus seems to be that the Axioms are all over everybody when it comes to midrange, and the stated efficiency of these speakers is certainly more than most of the others and quite a few db's greater than the Divas.



And while this is by no means scientific, it seems that the Divas pair well with the Outlaw 1050. I've heard this anecdotally from owners in various forums, and it was the receiver used by Cheap Home Theater in their bookshelf shootout for music sources (along with the Onkyo 595 on some home theater material), and the Divas were their clear winner. On the other hand, I've read on two occasions that owners found the Axioms a tad bright when paired with the Outlaw, and I haven't read any reviews suggesting these two pair well (though they certainly may).



I know this is just so much extrapolation and reading between the lines, but it's a difficult thing to compare these "etailed" speakers when one hasn't the luxury of auditioning before purchase. True, one has 30 days with most of these companies, but shipping costs and the general hassle involved with returning merchandise (especially the very heavy Swans) encourages me to try to make the right decision up-front.



And is there any chance we'll ever see another $499 deal for the Diva 4.1s?
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#2 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 08 2002 - 12:55 PM

Do they all suck?
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#3 of 33 OFFLINE   keir

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Posted April 08 2002 - 01:46 PM

These speakers are both mostly available through online order. I bet that not many have ever heard both, and fewer than that have heard them side-by-side.

#4 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 08 2002 - 02:10 PM

Aye, there's the rub, and the very reason I posted this topic as otherwise the advice "audition them yourself" would be the best response.



So, I'm hoping someone, someone has done so!



Right now, I can only go by the few professional reviews floating around. There's the one I linked to in my first post that has the Diva 2.1 coming out on top over the nOrh 4.0 and the Axiom M3ti. Then, there's another review comparing the M3 to the M22 here: http://www.soundstag....niam22tise.htm. From this, I can extrapolate that the M22 is better than the M3, but that the improvement is essentially in the midrange. High frequency response is probably nearly identical (same titanium tweets). Bass response seems to favor the M3 (despite some upper bass congestion as a result).



From this, I can extrapolate that the mid-range of the M22 is probably more liquid and precise than the Diva 2.1, but that the high frequency and low frequency response - and the overall better speaker for my purposes - would be the Diva 2.1.



I'm surprised there aren't some Axiom-fanatics around here that would dispute that! Posted Image



And does anyone think the higher rated efficiency of the Axiom M22 (95 db) compared to the Diva 2.1 (87 db) is an issue of any great import?
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#5 of 33 OFFLINE   ChrisAttebery

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Posted April 08 2002 - 02:14 PM

Rich, I was in the same boat as you. I did a ton of research and decided that I wanted the M22s. I just received them on Friday and I have to say I'm really happy with my decision. They have more bass than I was led to believe. There's not a ton, but its there. From all that I have read you really can't go wrong with either one. I'm planning on adding a sub anyway, so the bass is a non issue to me anyway. Good luck and let us know how it goes, Chris

#6 of 33 OFFLINE   keir

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Posted April 08 2002 - 02:36 PM

As to the efficiency, Axiom doesn't have an anechoic chamber spec listed right now. make sure the Diva spec you're using is also an "in room" spec. although i bet there is no standard way to measure the room spec.

#7 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 08 2002 - 02:39 PM

Chris, I kinda hope to be convinced to go with the M22s! The price difference is much greater than MSRP might lead one to believe, particularly when one factors in what I understand are HUGE shipping costs for the Divas (as much as $60-80 for the 2.1's?), whereas the already more inexpensive M22s can be purchased from Axiom and Audioship and shipped "for free" (shipping already factored into price). And, of course, the Diva center channel is much more expensive than the VP150, as are the Diva surrounds compared to the Axioms... (It just keeps adding up!) I think stepping up from the Axioms to the Swans will cost me an extra $350-400 for the front speakers (including center). No small increase there, and so I think Axiom can still lay claim to the best audio deal in the universe. But, but, but... I also wanna cure the upgrade bug. I don't want to look at my Axioms and wonder what kinda sound I could get from the Divas. And if that bug continues to nag at me, I'll ultimately be ponying over the dough for the Divas.
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#8 of 33 OFFLINE   Sean D

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Posted April 08 2002 - 02:48 PM

Hi Rich, I can't speak for the Axioms at all. I can say that the Divas are really nice sounding (and looking )speakers. I am using the 2.1's as rears and have the 6.1's as mains but I am planning to throw the 2.1's up front to hear what they can do just for fun. There is a member here named Sean Parque. I believe he had a buddy who came over with his Axioms and they did a side by side comparison. Hopefully he will read this thread and give his input.

#9 of 33 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted April 08 2002 - 03:39 PM

I'll be getting a pair of budget bookshelf speakers soon and will probably be choosing between the M22s or a DIY kit. I havn't given the Divas a listen but am hesitant to choose them because of the rosewood design. Right now I'm using JBL S38s but am going to need 2 more bookshelfs for a different room. The only reason I won't be getting another pair of S38s is because I'm pushing to try other brands. I have to hand it to the JBL S38s for being a perfect performer at the cost of $245 pre-owned off ebay. I even built custom speaker stands in my friends contracter shop just for these speakers. The sound is smooth and consistant at all volume levels and the bass is definitly there (which most bookshelfs lack). I may choose the S38 as my favorite now, but I know there are other brands that have budget performance and it would be ignorant not consider and try all the options out there.

#10 of 33 OFFLINE   DougO

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Posted April 08 2002 - 04:06 PM

You want to be convinced into buying the M22s, huh? I have not heard any Diva speaker, though I have a pal not too far from me who has the 6.1, r3. 2.1 full setup. I may still bring my M22s over to his house for sh*ts 'n giggles. I suppose I would've tried the Divas but I first stumbled into a great review of the M22s, and well... While I admire the Diva look, they're not for my decor -- black suits me best. The Axioms look nice enough (better than the finish on more expensive AR speakers I own). I expected the titanium tweeter to be harsher/more shrill than the ARs but mated with an older HK AVR80 and newer Yamaha rv-x3200, the Axioms were far far more sweet on the highs, and the mids are full -- vocal clarity is very very good, and presented very favorably up front in the soundstage. I've said it before, I didn't want to like them for it meant I would inevitably have to supplant the remainder of my HT speakers with the new brand. Not a problem!

#11 of 33 OFFLINE   KonradN

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Posted April 08 2002 - 04:49 PM

your choice will be easier if you know exactly what you are looking for. if you want more bass from your book shelves, then go with the divas if you find the highs on paradigm reference too bright then avoid the axiom speakers since they are just as bright if not a tad brighter. if you want midrange clarity then you already know what to get. I myself ended up with the m22ti because speakers that people call bright sound clear and clean to me while warm speakers sound muffled to me.

#12 of 33 OFFLINE   David Head

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Posted April 08 2002 - 06:06 PM

Rich,



I don't think that the Divas and Axioms will sound similar based on the posts I've read. The Axioms will sound more like Paradigm as Konrad pointed out, while the Divas will sound more like Kef or Theil (see this thread) which are more laid back. You can find out if there are any Diva owners in your area to get an audition at Audioenvy. You could also visit a local dealer to listen to Paradigm speakers to see if you prefer that type of sound.



If you find that you like the sound of the Divas, you might also want to take a look at PSB Image speakers. They have a very natural, uncolored sound also. They are very efficient (91-92db) and have a wide, clear soundstage IMO. The 4Ts (floorstanders that extend down to 38 Hz) can be ordered from Yawa for less than $500 delivered. You can find the PSB dealer(s) in your area here.



David

#13 of 33 OFFLINE   Russell _T

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Posted April 08 2002 - 09:52 PM

It's true that since they are both mail order, it's difficult to do a side by side. I have never heard the Axioms, but I have tried my 2.1's up front just to see how they performed, and I was very surprised at the deep soundstage and imaging. Although the 2.1 doesn't have a dedicated midrange, the mid range clarity isn't lacking. They sound smooth and clear. The top ported silk dome tweeter on the 2.1 makes the speakers disappear expecially with female voices. I honestly don't think you can do any better for anywhere close to the cost ot the 2.1's.
Russ Tarvin
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#14 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 09 2002 - 07:11 AM

Thanks so much for all the wonderfully in-depth responses so far! I know this is a question that's been asked myriad different ways in myriad different threads. But when it comes to these "buy before audition" deals, I think it really helps to have the collective experience of so many committed (obsessed?) individuals, and then wading through a large sample of subjective opinions before coming to one's own - and then hoping it all bears fruit when it comes to the actual speaker decided upon! Posted Image



To put a bit of a finer point on it, I'm fairly certain that my listening preferences would favor the Divas (giving up some precision and articulateness for a smoother, less fatiguing sound). I've heard the Divas described as having "an English sound" whereas the Axioms boast "a Canadian sound", and generally speaking I think I prefer the former.



In terms of my front mains, then, I think the Divas are definitely the way to go. And I do put a much greater priority on good music reproduction than I do on ideal movie soundtrack reproduction, and I think the Divas would get the nod from me here. But I have to remember that I'm buying into a family of speakers, and I have some serious doubts about the surround speakers offered by Swan.



I've heard some good SACDs and the occasional DVD that places instruments in the rear channels, but generally speaking, I'm talking about 2-channel music reproduction as being very important to me. When it comes to the surrounds, my priority is definitely for movies. And I have a very definite preference for dipoles. And all I know about the Diva dipoles are that they were incorrectly manufactured (weren't wired as mirrored pairs), and Swan simply left it at that (suggesting to re-wire on one's own after purchase without voiding warranty). But unlike the very good reviews of Axiom's unique surround speakers, I haven't heard squat about the Divas... except to note that most folks tend to put a pair of monopole 2.1's back there.



And it's perhaps no small point that Swan does not sell individual speakers (I'd much prefer to run a single rear-center for 6.1 - more economical, for one, and I think it sounds just fine this way with my current setup). Though I've considered the possibility of finding someone in my same shoes willing to go in on a pair, I'm more impressed by Axiom's willingness to sell single speakers without adding a ridiculous markup.



In other words, I see problems lying all along the road should I decide to go with the Swan family of speakers. Expensive problems, relatively speaking. Ones that I could potentially live with so long as the 2-channel music reproduction is so much more to my liking (over, say, the Axioms). But, in terms of the company as a whole, its product offerings and flexibility, it's entire complimentary line of speakers - and the value of each - I still feel much more comfortable with Axiom than with Swan.



(And if I go with the Axioms, I'll most likely put M50s upfront rather than M22s. I'm not a bass-hound, but I don't think the M22s will be sufficient sans sub (for music). The only issue is that my wife might kill me on the day I haul those big towers in, whereas she'll love the Divas... even after I tell her how much more they cost.)



[BTW, I always chuckle when I read the mental machinations of someone on the verge of an upgrade decision - it's all weird priorities and unique limitations. Hope you guys don't mind me thinking out loud in here. You've all been a huge help thusfar... but I'm still thinking!]
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."

#15 of 33 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted April 09 2002 - 07:37 AM

Rich - I know what you mean about the "mental machinations". I'm also evaluating speakers and have been seriously considering the Diva line. Since I'm looking for full range floor standers, I'm leaning towards a pair of 6.1s and a C3 center. It really is difficult to commit to such a major purchase without ever having heard them. Reviews and personal opinions are nice, but in the end all they can do is sway you one way or another. The final decision can't be made until they're sitting in your home connected to your equipment playing your favotire source material. One thing for you to consider if you decide to go with the Divas though - the 6.1, 4.1, 2.1 and C3 are all out of stock at AV123.com. None of these models will be available for shipping until May 6th, almost a month from now. I was almost ready to order mine when I discovered this and am now looking at alternatives.

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#16 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 09 2002 - 08:12 AM

Hi Doug, Yes, I'm aware of the delay and am considering that to be my extra time to come to some decision! Even after 5/6, I wonder if there'll still be a backlog. (I can tell you that if av123.com ever runs the 4.1's for $499 deal again, I'm all over it!)
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."

#17 of 33 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted April 09 2002 - 08:43 AM

I'm wondering the same thing about the possible backlog after 5/6. Luckily I was able to locate a 6.1 owner within 100 miles of my home who's offered to audition the speakers for me. This will certainly make my decision a whole lot easier! We haven't worked out the details yet but I'd be happy to give you my impression of the big boys once I hear them.

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#18 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 09 2002 - 10:53 AM

Thanks, Chuck. I'll certainly do that, but from reading the looooooooonnnng "Unofficial Divas by Swan Thread" at the avsforum, they're policy on selling paired speakers is very clear: each pair is a matched set from consecutive "slices" of rosewood and they simply will not break up the set. As for the dipole speakers, Swan simply adopted the policy that rewiring would not void the warranty - I'm sure it's a simple thing to do. But as for the quality of the Swan dipole surrounds, there's been very little feedback that I can find. When CHT reviewed the Swan surround setup, their comments regarding the surrounds were limited to the following:



[quote]

The R3 speakers, however, do not have extended tweeters above the cabinet. They feature very nice, tight fitting removable grills that cover a recessed tweeter above an aluminum woofer. They are a dipole design, featuring two sets of woofers and tweeters facing different directions. What you'll immediately notice about these, is their sheer weight. You'll definitely want to anchor these into studs in your wall. Claimed weight is almost 26lbs, which is considerably heavier than most rear speakers we've seen. http://www.cheaphome......d System.htm

[quote]
Not a single word as to sound quality, nor any comparisons to some of the better surround speakers on the market.



Interestingly, the Axioms have started to make a splash over at the highly Swan-centric AVSFORUM in the following thread:



http://www.avsforum.....hreadid=131221



Though I notice some HTF regulars - Dan Jones, I'm looking at you! Posted Image



(Dan, if you're lurking about, do you have any idea how your M50s compare to the M40s or M22s? Do the dual woofers simply allow for louder and slightly deeper sound, or do you feel the mid-range/upper bass is given any greater liquidity?)
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#19 of 33 OFFLINE   Sean D

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Posted April 09 2002 - 11:42 AM

Rich,

MaxC from the AVS forum has the R3 surrounds and seems to be quite happy with them. Here is a link to his site and his thoughts on the R3's. Scroll down a bit

#20 of 33 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted April 09 2002 - 11:57 AM

Thanks, Sean! This must be the same Max we know and love on HTF - the guy from Plant City FLA? I remember because I have relatives in that beautiful little town, better known as the Strawberry Capitol of the World.



Reading through Max's comments:



[quote]

These dual in phase, 6.5" mid/woofers are anything but ambient. They are not as pinpoint, but they are very directional. I find them to be a lot more directional and focal than dipoles that are at 180 degrees. I was surprised how well they sounded with music. The R3 blended perfectly, not only with each other, but with the center and mains. My only problem with the R3 is that the wood is darker than the mains and center, and the grill has this plastic matrix rather than just cloth like the center and mains (you can see it if you look at the picture closely)...Ohh, and now I have to buy sturdier stands...damn.

[quote]
Would rewiring them as "mirrored pairs" make them less directional? That's my presumption. So, has anyone rewired their Diva surrounds to meet Swan's original specs? And what is the effect of this?



And that thing about the stands - no small issue IMO! I don't even know if I've ever seen stands that are strong enough to bear the weight of these speakers and which are tall enough for appropriate placement (in my room, it's 2 feet above my ears while sitting, or about 6 feet from the floor). I've tried lower stands, and it truly disrupts my "surround-stage". And if I can even find 5 to 5-1/2 ft stands beefy enough to support these speakers, I wonder how much they'd cost???



(EDIT: Wall-mounting is not an option for me. Stud or no, I'd always be worried about whether they're secure enough.)
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."




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