Home Theater Direct (HTD) Level 3 Center first impressions!

Luis Gabriel Gerena

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 18, 2000
Messages
410
Finally got my HTD Level 3 Center with the Horizontal Ribbon tweeter and boy am I impressed!

Looks:

To my eyes it looks gorgeous. The light cherry color (which is not my favorite) really looks pretty and the drivers are very good looking as well. Even my wife liked it.

Build Quality:

This thing is built like a tank! It passes the knuckle rap test with ease. You can really tell a lot about this speaker just by admiring the build quality. Its kind of big at 22" but I love huge center speakers (bigfoot anyone?). All in all, as I am writing this, I cant stop looking at it...I am in LOVE!

Sound Quality:
Ok, I am no expert but WOW! Who ever said that the ribbon tweeter was dull or mufled either was talking based on other ribbon tweeters he may have heard before or really like ultra bright speakers because this Level 3 sounds perfect to me.
The bass is really tight and hits very low, heck, I though the sub was still on at one point. They claim 45hz +/- 3db and I will have to believe them. The mids are just perfectly balanced and natural. The highs (which I was afraid of based on ribbon tweeter comments Ive read) are just amazing. You get ultra detailed highs without been harsh or bright...its like "Having Your Cake and Eating it Too". You actually seem to get the best of both worlds because you dont get fatigue or endure harshness and yet the detail is superb.
To make it short, this speaker blew me away much more than the original Level 3 did when I went to their office while I was living in Texas. I really dont feel the need to look elsewhere as this speaker delivers everything I was looking for and then some. Now all I need to figure out is if I want to go with 3 center channels to use as Mains and Center or get the Level 3 bookshelves.

As a reference Ive auditioned or owned the following speakers (among others):

Acoustic Research 318PS
AR PSC25
Klipsch RC52
Klipsch RF82
Paradigm Titans
Paradigm CC-70 (center)
Advent tower (cant recall the model)
Insignia

The receiver used for testing is the Harman Kardon AVR-635

If you have any questions please ask. My testings is limited since I only have 1 speaker so not sound stage or imaging comments yet. Still, for anyone looking for speakers I will say PLEASE do your self a favor and get this, HTD will even pay for shipping BOTH ways so its a totally risk free trial, now I know what they are so confident to do that.
Regards
 

Brian D H

Second Unit
Joined
Sep 2, 2004
Messages
453
I purchased the original HTD Level III on clearance (pre-ribbon-tweeter) for Left/Right/Center (2 Bookshelfs and a Center) in the dark cherry finish.

I obviously can't comment on the ribbon tweeter, but the build quality and sound for the money is incredible. I'm totally satisfied. I can say that the bookshelves blend seamlessly with the center, so whether you buy two more centers or two bookshelves should be more of a space consideration. (Your mileage may vary - maybe you can hear a difference with 3 centers? I can't.)
 

Luis Gabriel Gerena

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 18, 2000
Messages
410
First of all let me thank skriefal for taking the time to come home and bring the rockets and onix plus cd player, iriver and stands! BTW, he sold me some nice stands for practically nothing and it makes my speakers even sweeter now since the tweeter is at ear level.
Anyway, I will only comment on my feelings about the speakers and my preferences (which happen to be different from skriefal's).

About me:
I dislike ultra bright speakers but dont like them to be too laid back either. To give you an example so that you can relate, I dislike Klipsch as I found the harsh and I also found Paradigm Titans very bright too. If you are familiar with those speakers then you will have an idea of what I call bright.

Equipment:
Receiver : Harman Kardon AVR-635
Sources: My (really loud) PC and skriefal's Iriver (?) player.
Music played: Some of my latin music like mariachis, salsa, and tropical music. I will let him comment on the titles of the songs he used. I do recall Drum to the Rythm by sarah mclachlan.

Speakers :
HTD Level 3 Center
Onix X-LS
Rocket 250 (first version)

Impressions:

Rockets:

Highs: It sounded to laid back for my taste. I dont really think I would be happy with these speakers cause I the highs are to recessed for me even though I dislike bright speakers.
Mids: They have very refined mids but so do the other 2. Voices sound very nice but the lack of highs hampered its performance.

Bass: It has less bass than the others but what it has its good. Its a balanced bass without trying to be more than what it should. Still, I dont see me using it wihout a sub.
Soundstage: The soundstage was very wide, almost as wide as the HTD. Where it beats the HTD is in depth..hard to explain but it seemed to extretch further back from the speakers than the HTD and Onix.
Imaging: Very good imaging and easy to pinpoin instruments but we didnt test that much with the Rockets to be honest.

Overall Impression: My 3rd choice in this shootout which is surprising cause I was expecting it to blew the other 2 away.

Onix X-LS:

Highs: Nice highs, much better than the Rocket but less bright than the HTD. I really like the highs in these but sometimes some instruments sounded lacking just a tiny bit of brightness like trumpets and violins in a mariachi song I tried.
Mids: Very nice mids just like the Rocket but not quite as refined. Voices were clear as well. Acoustic instruments sounded very realistic and "in the room".
Bass: Second place in the bass department, I was really surprised at the bass performance. Much better than the Rockets, Titans and Insignias but not as deep as the HTD which didnt surprised me since its a bigger speaker and rated at 45hz +/- 3db. Still, I dont see any reason not to be happy using the Onix without a subwoofer since the bass is controlled and solid for music.
Soundstage: I felt is had the narrowest soundtage of all 3. That kind of hurt it in my evaluation cause a wide soundstage is somthing I really desire in a speaker. Again, nothing wrong with it and on its own its a good soundstage but this is a comparison so I am giving my opinion.
Imaging: Imaging was very good as again, pinpointing where instruments were was quite easy.

Overall:
My second choice with ease. If it were for music performance alone, I wouldnt mind having either the HTD or Onix as they both have an amazing performance for music. I like the extra touch of brightness of the HTD but I know skriefal feels the opposite...thats why there are many different type of speakers, cause not everyone like the same thing.

My only concern with this speaker will be Home Theater performance...I sometimes feel my HTD lack a bit of brightness for HT so I can imagine the Onix will sound even more laid back for my taste. If I were buying a music only setup I will probably buy the Onix and save some money compared to buying all Centers like I did with the HTD (or maybe try the HTD bookshelves).
So, to summarize...highly recommended for music but I have my doubts about ht performance.

HTD Level3:

Highs: All the fear about having dull or mudded highs due to ribbon tweeter had no reason to exist. Heck, if anything we both agreed that it was the brightest of all 3. The difference is that I feel is the bright as in detailed sound and not the Klipsch or Titan harshness. In the mariachi track, trumpets had that extra bite that Im used to hear from my years in a latin band.
Mids: Very good mids second only to the Rockets. Voices were very clear and it had a really full sound to the mids. Acoustical instruments were very realistic and again, that in the room feeling. I didnt feel it was to upfront or laidback...more like very nicely balanced which could be a benefit of having the ribbon tweeter as well.
Bass: It had the biggest bass of all 3 and it was controlled and punchy but never boomy. That was expected and I can easily use it (and normally do) without a sub for music perforamce..for movies of course I need a sub.
Soundstage: To widest soundstage IMHO. The only thing it lacked was the same depth the Rocket one had but it was definitly wider. Thats a big thing for me.
Imaging: As with the other 2, imaging was great with different instruments occupating a different space. The one thing I was mostly impressed with was at one point in the Drawn to the rhythm track the sound seem to be coming out of a very high place behind the speakers almost from the cealing...it was great. Besides that thing, the imaging seem to be pretty even between all 3.

Overall:
This was my 1st choice due to its more balanced HT and Music performance. I would love to have that deep soundstage the rockets have but they are so laid back for my taste that I wouldnt be happy with them. Besides, the HTD had a wider soundstage which I love cause it makes my room seem a lot bigger! I felt the HTD gave ME what I wanted. Enough detailed highs to bring out all the acoustical instruments nuances without falling in the harsh/ear piercing category. I have the choice of returning them (at least one) and buying the Onix if I wanted but I dont really feel like doing that. The HTD fits ME better but I can honestly say that have I bought the Onix I wouldnt have been disapointed either at least for music.
Its just that the extra amount of controlled bass, better balance, extra detail of the ribbon tweeter, huge soundstage, highly defined imaging and simply put "fuller sound" made it the winner in my book. I am sure the MTM design made a difference as well and also keep in mind its a bigger speaker than the other 2 with dual woofers so the fuller sound and bass performance was expected since its a "high" quality speaker at this price range.
The x-ls and HTD are both extremely good speakers with slightly different caracteristics that some people will prefer over the other and that sounds great for me. In order to get this level of performance from other speakers you will probably have to spend a lot more so if you are looking for new speakers, do yourself a favor and pick up one pair of each, the HTD and the Onix, and decide which one fits you better. Either way you will be getting a great bang for buck deal.
Regards

UPDATED OCTOBER 31/2006
 

Jason Hammerly

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 28, 1999
Messages
739
I ordered the level three bookshelfs and center as well as the level two bookshelfs and center. Chris at HTD was very cordial and said that since it was my first purchase with them that he would credit both shipping to me and back for any or all speakers I decide to return. I am primarily going to compare them to my Athena AS-b1 and AC-c1. Also have 3 of the Mirage omnisat v1's coming that I'm going to check out. Obviously not anything like the HTD's or Athena's. I'll post my thoughts on the HTD speakers when I get them. Later.

Jason
 

Luis Gabriel Gerena

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 18, 2000
Messages
410
I will do that tonight as unfortunately my wife misplaced the camera charger (as usual) so I will take the battery to my store to charge it and then will take the pics tonight.
Thanks!
 

Dave Moritz

Premium
Joined
Jul 7, 2001
Messages
7,995
Location
California
Real Name
Dave Moritz
I remember using ribon tweeters at one time in a pair of kenwood speakers I gutted. I placed pyle driver 10" woofer and a pyle 5" midrange and a ribon tweeter with a pyle crossover. I had a 75w/ch Kenwood intergrated amp at the time and this was the late 80's I believe. I never had issues with how the ribon tweeters sounded, I just had problems frying them.
I never used a ribon tweeter after that, but I think they sound good.
 

Luis Gabriel Gerena

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 18, 2000
Messages
410
I just found them to be extremely detailed without crossing the harshness line. These are not older style ribbon tweeters either which might explain why they are, to my ears, better than the ones in the x-ls for instance and not dull as some people were telling they will probably be based on past experiences.

BTW, I slightly updated my comparison review.
 

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