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quest for the perfect sub 1000.00 bookshelf for music. (1 Viewer)


Dec 5, 2008
Real Name
OK here it goes. This is the first time I have ever done a review, and my needs were specific. Rather than a flowing report on everything I listened to, I may be a little short on what just did not work for me. Remember this is my ears not yours so don’t take anything I say as the gospel, but I did cover a lot of ground today and more to come. I have been a musician (guitar) for 43 years, and have sat in many a recording studio in my miss-spent youth, but my ears may be getting long of tooth.
A synopsis of my needs.
I want to have a dedicated set of bookshelves for music only. The speakers I choose will be mounted on the wall 28” base to floor. The 28” is so they will clear my Warfdale floor standers that I use for a 5/1-movie setup. (I have gone into the reasons for this on other threads.) So they can’t have a rear port, as I will not be able to distance them adequately. I will be driving them with the rear surround assigned channel on my 2808 Denon, thus keeping my bass management and dual subs. My room is 28x18 speakers facing the long axis from wall, and not acoustically treated.
I started out early this morning from my place in the country (sticks VilleJ) and drove 45 miles into Ft. Worth Texas for the first audition armed with a DVD of the Eagles Hell Freezes Over, a SRV CD Blues at Sunrise and a Alice Smith, For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me, CD. For all the auditions I used the Hotel California as it has some of the most detailed acoustic work if properly rendered I have ever heard. Then I used the 10th track on the SRV CD Blues at Sunrise (Live) as it has some of the most demanding guitar sounds that I know of to replicate faithfully, as I have heard Stevie and Albert King in person doing this cut in a small venue in Austin TX. Alice Smith as she has vocals that gives most speakers the flats or highs. These are the cuts I used for all auditions and will continue to use. All test were done without a sub and in 2 channels only.
Now the first audition was of a Paradigm Studio 10 Monitor v.5 and a B&W 685.
A Pioneer Elite SC-07 140W drove both speakers.
The Paradigm has a small footprint but knowing their reputation I was of high hopes. Alas, I found the sound field to be small and not enough definition to detail for my needs. I believe this speaker would work well for someone with a small room and a modest sub as it is not a bad sounding speaker it was just too small. I guess what I mean is the speaker just sounded small in a big room.
Now the B&W 685. I have been previously impressed with the B&W 800 series and was looking forward to this one also. What can I say—The hairs on my arm stood up and I had goose bumps. It has been so long since I have had that reaction I forgot what it felt like! A definite WOW!! The sound stage was unbelievable; Albert King’s guitar was a good 5’ off side from the speaker and Stevies 5’ off the other and the rest right on spot. Ms. Smith’s vocals soared all around me like a caress and the acoustic guitars of the Eagles, I could hear every one of those 12 strings and 6 strings harmonizing along with every fret change. I have to tell you that now I was really pumped for the other speakers I was going to audition, if it was this good for a sub 1000.00 pair I just knew it was going to get better. I honestly thought the sales person had kicked in another set of speakers in the listening room. So much so that I went and put my ear to them!
Next stop 40 miles into Dallas, a Revel’s Concerta M12
For those (like me) that are not familiar with the name Revel they have been a High end Audio speaker producer for many years. Their M20 series of bookshelves have been highly lauded as a benchmark, albeit a 2000.00 a pair benchmark, but their new M12’s are a sub 1000.00 offering that they have recently brought to the market. The M12 uses a 6 1/2" woofer that has what Revel calls an "Organic Ceramic Composite" (OCC) cone, a die-cast frame, a "high-excursion butyl rubber surround," and an "oversized ceramic magnet." The tweeter is a 1" OCC-dome that incorporates”Constant Acoustic Impedance" waveguide; it’s a technology that’s been incorporated into all the Concerta-series speakers as I was told while I sagely nodded my head up and down. The two drivers are crossed over at 2.5kHz.
A Denon AVP A1 HDIC drove this test
This speaker has the strongest clean bass I could ever have imagined from a bookshelf footprint. I had to ask twice that we were not running a sub anywhere! The sound field was deep and full, but I felt the bass colored the experience and mid to high details were lost. No WOW. The price I was quoted was the same almost as the B&W.
Winner so far—you guessed it B&W
So now I drive another 20 miles in traffic (being a country boy I’m not used to this) toward a Polk dealer but I got hungry and stopped for a bite. What do I see across the street but a BB store so I wipe my chin hoist up my britches and saunter across the street to find?
Vienna Hayden’s. We drove these over $1000.00+ speakers with a Denon 2809. They were very clean with no bad habits, but had no zing? They defiantly need to run with a sub but even then every thing was so –I don’t know how to put it? Like a good bowl of warm oatmeal served to you by your beloved mother. Bland?? I guess if you could take a great speaker and put it on Thorazine that would explain it. No WOW.
Well now oatmeal fully digested and coat buttoned up as it has gotten very windy and cold I head to the last audition.
Polk LSI9.
I thought these would be the most expensive speakers I would look at but they were not, the Vienna’s were by far. We drove them with a Harmon Kardon AVR 50w. I’m not kidding.
I had read a lot and heard a lot of praise about these speakers and had shrugged most of it off, as I have never been overly impressed with Polk. Don’t get me wrong. I have owned some of their better speakers in the past I was just never that impressed with them as audiophile territory.
Well one thing I learned today. You don’t have to waste a lot of time auditioning speakers, as the moment you turn on a great one you will know it! These were Great! Hair up on my arms twice in one day at my age could lead to serious medical problems or an addiction to ViagraJ
Once again I checked twice to be sure there were no other speakers turned on period. These speakers are not only sexy looking (beautiful piano black) but were putting out a field of sound way beyond the confines of the room. Just like the B&W’s they were a total joy to listen to. A lot of folks had said they take a lot of power but look at what we were driving them with! Awesome. I would have a hard time deciding on the audio quality alone between the B&W’s and the LSI9’s. On the appearance side the LSI9’s hands down, on the cost side 1000.00 vs. 650.00 B&W wins.
Oh Mother what to do?
Go shopping again next week
Usher S520
Axiom M22 or M3v2
Energy R-C10
Some of these auditions are going to have to be with citizens like you and I as I find them.
Thanks to all for letting me ramble and I hope it’s a help to someone else.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 17, 2003
Nice write-up. Sounds like a fun day!!!

You might add to your list of things to find to review the Ascend Sierra-1. It's a great looking pair that should sound incredible based on its pedigree and it's right at your price point.

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