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$3500 budget 5 speaker setup ideas and reviews

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Chris Bedard, Jul 14, 2008.

  1. Chris Bedard

    Chris Bedard Stunt Coordinator

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    Short History- I'm building a home, to complete soon, and will be upgrading from a Paradigm Mini Monitor/Denon 3803 setup. Will be going with a Denon 3808, and looking to spend about $3500.00 for speakers without a sub (Plan on going with either Epic Castle or SVS). The listening room is 20'2" x 14'6", with an opening to a hallway along the left wall about 12' back from the front, and then an opening for a stairway on the back left corner.

    I've considered many of the Online only distributors, including AV123 (Rockets), Salk (Songs), Aperion (6MT's), but I'm a little hesitant to purchase any of these, even with the 30 day money back deals. Samples I've pretty much narrowed it down to from my local B&M stores are the Following:

    1) B&W 683 Towers for the front, 2 DS3's for the rears, and HTM61 center.
    2) Paradigm Studio 60's front, 2 ADP 590's for the rears, and Studio CC690 center.
    3) Dali Ikon 6 towers for the front, 2 Ikon On Walls, and Ikon Vocal 2 Center.
    4) DefTech Bipolar 8's, with 2 Bipolar Surrounds, and Bipolar LCR for Center.

    In listening, the DefTech's were out immediately. Extremely bright and forward, they were, as my wife put it, harsh, and hard to listen to.

    The B&W's were quite a bit more impressive. Everything was driven by an Onkyo 7.8 (which is fairly comparable to the Denon 3808 I am getting I think). Though, unfortunately, they were demo'd in comparison to some B&W 703's, which to me sounded like a much better speaker, with a large soundstage, and smooth sound. However, the 683 sounded pretty good, considering their price, on music. On movies, I'm not so sure the HTM61 center was a good match, and quite a bit seemed to collapse towards the center. Also, the sound seemed pretty directional.

    I went to another shop today, which carries Dali speakers, and is much more of a high end shop. I demo'd the Ikon set above, as well as the Dali Mentor 6's, which are the step above the Ikons. However, in listening, I could hardly tell a difference between the Mentor's and Ikons. To be blunt, I was, well, blown away by the Dali's. The soundstage they presented was absolutely HUGE. In 2 channel music, it was simply amazing. It felt like, if I were to close my eyes, and spin around, I'd have a very difficult time pointing out the speakers, as opposed to the B&W's. The detail was quite similar to the B&W 703's, and though the midbass was solid, they didn't extend very low, but I plan to use them with a sub anyways, so no big deal. On movies (Transformers), the sound was just awesome. It felt like I was in a sound bubble, fully involved. Even the rears, though placing sounds above/behind/to the side, did not give away their location easily. The speakers appeared to be very well matched. I am very impressed, however, considering the speakers were being driven through a Cary Audio Cinema 11 ($3000), Cary Transport ($1200), and NuForce MCH7SE Amp ($4,000), I must wonder how they would sound on a meager Denon 3808.

    I am scheduled to demo the Paradigm Stuido's next Monday. I want to like them, since I've enjoyed Paradigm speakers for years, but I wonder if the Ikon's will be the better speaker even over them.

    I am interested on feedback regarding both the Dali's and Paradigm's ideally, especially with regard to my concern over how much of a difference the electronics can expect to make. Also, if I missed some other options in this price range that offer warm sounds, without being too harsh, and a wide soundstage.

    Thanks in advance ;p
     
  2. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I have to agree, I would disregard DefTech right off the top. Not the same league as the others. It sounds like the B&W setup wasn't calibrated properly if the center was too dominating. It's probably not the speakers. I have always been impressed with Paradigm also. There is another brand in your range I was extremely impressed with a few years back, but I just can't remember the name. It is three letter (No, not KLH [​IMG]), plus I highly recommend you seek out Vandersteen. They aren't the easiest to find, and they don't change their models yearly, because they did them right to begin with. One thing is, they need a lot of room to breathe. You can't put them against a wall or other obstacles and expect them to provide their best sound stage. Still, when it comes to imaging, they are one of the best, particularly in their price range. Approaching the imaging of Thiel, which is significantly more expensive.
     
  3. pink

    pink Stunt Coordinator

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    roger walters
    Approaching the imaging of Thiel, which is significantly more expensive.[/quote]

    John I know you like to be kind with your words but you can't compare Paradigm and B&W to Thiel's, Thiel's are world class speakers, different ball park all together. You have to pay your dues till you graduate to Thiel's..

    .
     
  4. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Actually, I was comparing the imaging of Vandersteen to Thiel, which I think is a fair comparison. I did say Vandersteen still doesn't measure up to them. FWIW, I have owned Thiel for almost 15 years. I'm not about to sell them short. They are about the most amazing speaker I have ever heard, but far beyond the price range the OP is talking about.
     
  5. Chris Bedard

    Chris Bedard Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the Vandersteen suggestion. I'll have to see if there is a local dealer here.
     

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