Audition: Mordaunt Short 914 vs Paradigm Phantoms...long

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by RickTop, Mar 6, 2006.

  1. RickTop

    RickTop Extra

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    Ok - first my standard disclaimer; im definately not an audiophile. however, i can tell the difference between good and bad speakers. as a reference and a little background, i lived in a townhouse before i was married last year where my best friend and i had a pretty nice setup. we had a Marantz sr 7300 preamping a rotel 1075 amp playing through a 5 piece B&W setup: 604s for mains, 601s for rears, an LCR 600 center, and an SVS 20-39 sub.

    but i digress; back to the audition: as i took the Marantz with me when i moved into a new town home with my wife, i was looking for speakers that would match it as well as my budget of no more than $1000 for all 5 speakers. i was originally looking at JBLs Northridge series but my friend talked me into not looking at them. so i had narrowed it down to the Mordaunt Short Avant line as i was determined to have the maple finish. my friend recommended Paradigm as the best speaker for the buck at that price point. to apease him (i had already made my mind up, just not auditioned) i included a stop at a dealer carrying that line when i went to audition the MS line.

    Mordaunt short 914s: construction wise, these speakers were a work of art. the veneer really looked like wood to me. the materials were of high quality with the terminals gold plated and biampable/biwirable. i liked the fact you could fill the cabinets with sand and loved how they looked with the grills off (a must for my preferences)

    they handled the demo disk i created with ease. both a mixture of rock and slower, van morrison style music emphasising vocals. pros: the midrange is what these speakers are all about! they are some of the most accurate speakers i have ever heard with an astounding clarity. not necessarily a detriment, these speakers were very laid back; almost like energy speakers.

    as far as cons go, the only thing i can say is they were a little too laid back for my taste. i need a more robust, fuller (less refined maybe) speaker. other than that, nothing. the best prices i found were online at "wild west electronics"

    Paradigm Phantoms: from the first time i saw them, i knew i wanted the Mordaunts. i just didn't like the black finish. i thought it looked too 'plasticky'. still, i liked that for the same money, i got an extra driver and proceeded to audition them.

    from the first 10 seconds of listening to them, i had to admit they had the Mordaunts beat. the highs were crisper and more articulated than the MSs and the lower registers were not missing as in the 914s. the extra driver gave the phantoms a fuller sound, leaving the 914s sounding sort of thin. in stereo mode the 914s just didn't do well enough.

    as with anything, there is a trade off. the phantoms were not biwirable and there was a lack of 'expensivity' to the build quality.

    Conclusions: well, as much as i loved the way the 914s looked and disliked the way the phantoms looked...i loved the way the Paradigms sounded more. they were just more of a forward sounding speaker that suits my music tastes of mainly rock better. Paradigm clearly spent most of their money on the way their performance line sounds and the rest on building them. while Mordaunt Short would be a perfect speaker for declaring that you have an expensive home theater setup, Paradigm wins in a blind A-B audition.

    However, i definately want to defend the Mordaunts (they were that good) by saying that with a sub in the equation, the lack of bottom end would not be a problem. if my wife had not have thought the black would match our living room better than the maple of the 914s, i would have bought the Mordaunt Avant line instead of Paradigm's Performance.

    i purchased the Atoms as surrounds but have listened to them as a bookshelf system and they are simply amazing! you would not be amiss to get four of these and a sub for a budget theater setup: they really shine
     
  2. ChrisAG

    ChrisAG Supporting Actor

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    Good review. That says a lot about Paradigm. I'm surprised at your conclusion though... was the audition under identical conditions? Perhaps this is a case of brute force over finese?

    A few years ago I auditioned the MS-906 against the Paradigm Reference Studio/60, and the Mordaunt-Shorts sounded better to myself and another guy present. However, it was not a true A/B comparrison, as the speakers were in different listening rooms at the dealers (though using the same brand of amp).
     
  3. RickTop

    RickTop Extra

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    You are exactly right. i would have loved to audition the 906s. however, they both were not in stock and out of my price range. they were under very similar conditions with the same denon reciever. honestly, i believe a second mid-bass driver on the 906s would give the low end punch that the 914s were missing that the Paradigms provided. they just sounded much fuller and in an immediately noticable way.

    i just dont think i have a trained enough ear to appreciate the nuances of MS over the Paradigms. they are without a doubt a higher quality speaker and sounded great. i just need a more "forward" sounding speaker for my tastes and Paradigms work for me. i suprised myself at my conclusion. but you have to listen to them before you discount them. they sound awesome. and the performance line sounds just as good as the Monitor line. in fact i would buy the monitor line over the Studio line as the studios lacked the same fullness that i would expect a speaker of as many drivers as they have to sound. i think that it was the fact it was driven by a tube amp though.
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I've owned all of the bookshelf speakers from Paradigm. I replaced my Mini Monitors with MS902s in my 2ch setup in the bedroom. I compared them to the 20s also, and still preferred the 902s. The thing I find most pleasing about the MSs is how cleanly they play - no matter what I throw at them, they do a good job with it. The 20s were more dynamic, definitely played louder and had more bass, but they also seem to have a "dished" sound, where the highs and bass are more prominent than the midrange, which results in a less than optimum presentation to my ears. It is the fact that I DON'T like a more forward speaker that I prefer the MSs to the Paradigms. The Monitor line isn't as good as the MS900 line, IMO, and the Peformance line doesn't even come close. I agree, the 906s would have been a better comparison to the Phanotms, and they would have embarrased the Phantoms.

    I installed a full 900 system for a friend, 905C, 904s, 903s and I was quite impressed with the sound, the center in particular. The 904s don't have as much midrange in a larger room due to the single midrange, but they still did a good job.

    Like you, I'm not trying to say the 'digms aren't good speakers, because I do like and recommend them, but I feel the Mordaunts are simply better speakers for the money. One big drawback is they have far fewer dealers, but if you happent to have one local, they're definitely worth a listen.

    I don't know if you looked online, but www.ac4l.com carries some of the MS models at a discounted price.

    Nice write up BTW.
     
  5. RickTop

    RickTop Extra

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    yeah, i know exactly what you are saying. i thought the performance line looked almost "cheap" compared to the MS line, (they do use alot more plastic than other speakers)but like i said in the writeup...for what i wanted them for, the Paradigms delivered. they were more as you said, 'dynamic' and thats what sold me. i attribute that to the additional driver of the Phantoms. i didn't notice any of the 'dished' sound. but then, im only an enthusiast and new to the game. i readily admit that my ear is by no means trained. they gave me the sound i was looking for and the price was in line with what i wanted. had my wife agreed to the color of the honey maple veneer MS uses, i would have them now reguardless of sound. i wish i could have afforded the 906s or 908s...i would own them as we speak!

    i guess the moral of this story is:

    if you are looking for a laid back but precise sound, MS makes a perfect speaker for you.

    if you want a more forward sounding "rocker" go with Paradigm. i just felt the Paradigms felt more "alive". while not as refined, they gave me more energy while listening.
     
  6. ChrisAG

    ChrisAG Supporting Actor

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    It also depends somewhat on amplification, even among different brands of similarly priced receivers. The 906 dealer pair were hooked up to an Anthem amp, and had fantastic bass. I suspect that with a high-end amp the MS would do better than the Paradigm Performance, but who knows for sure.
     
  7. Elliot_W

    Elliot_W Agent

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    And if you want to go smack in the middle, try the Monitor Audio Silver series!
     

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