Some speaker observations

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Robert Hoffman, Aug 8, 2004.

  1. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    So I've been in the market for some new speakers. I've primarily been examining floor standing speakers under $3500. So far, I've auditioned

    B&W N804 & 803
    Dali
    Kef
    JMLab Cobalt 826
    Vienna Acoustics Beethoven
    Joseph Audio rm22 & rm25
    Thiel 1.6 & 2.4 (may have model number wrong, but the 1 series and 2 series)
    Devore (I think that's the name)
    Boston Acoustics ($2000/pair...maybe 800 series?)

    My present system consists of a $150 a pair BIC bookshelves with a SVS 25-31 PC+. This is driven by a HK AVR-230. My plan is to add a separate amp at somewhere around 200 watts/channel.

    My apartment is a relatively large loft so I want to make sure that whatever I buy can fill up the space (but I also want to keep in mind that a large apartment may not always be the norm living in NYC).

    So far, my initial reactions have me really favoring the Joseph Audio RM25si. This happened to be the first speaker I heard yesterday and it just seemed that nothing else that I listened to the entire rest of the day could really compete. The Josephs just seemed to have an amazing degree of clarity and definition that all the others lacked. Part of this observation could be due to the listening environment. The Joseph dealer in NYC has a really amazing setup for speaker auditions and it was a great environment to sit in and audition the two Josephs.

    I thought the Dali's were a dissapointment. For $3900/pair (I forget the model #), the speakers sounded almost muddy and had very poor imaging (IMHO, of course). This was done in an auditioning room that didn't seem too poorly designed either, so I was really not impressed. The Kef's were so/so, & matched up well to the Dalis even though they were somewhere around $1000 cheaper.

    Sound by Singer in NYC is a pretty high-end shop, and I was worried at first about the level of pretentiousness that I might encounter from the sales people. I was relieved on that front as the person helping me was more than generous in giving me plenty of time & options for evaluating speakers. My only gripe is that a few of the auditioning rooms were quite small, and I wonder if trying to measure something like the Josephs (in a better space) to some of the things I heard at Singer was a fair comparison. That being said, the Thiel 1 series was uninspiring, and I thought that the Devore (not something I had heard of before) matched up well for a similar price. The JMLab Cobalts held there own and I thought they seemed like a very musical speaker (for whatever that means). Next I heard the Thiel 2 series in what was a pretty good listening room (so I was prepared to be impressed). That being said, the Thiels didn't leave much of an impression with me (which makes me feel a little better about liking the Josephs, as hopefully they were both given an equal opportunity to shine.

    This morning I went out and heard the Vienna Acoustics Beethovens. Supposedly they are being discontinued and the store had a demo pair marked down to $3000. These speakers were pretty impressive. The imaging was quite good and the highs were smooth. Compaired to the Boston Acoustics, you could easily tell what the extra $1000 got you with the Viennas.

    On the B&W N804s, I need to give these another listen. I heard these last week and I feel I need to give them another chance now that I've had the opportunity to listen to several more speakers. What I was able to determine though is that there was no way I could justify to myself the additional cost of the N803s over the N804s as I was just not able to tell anything close to a $1500 difference in sound.

    So those are some of my observations. I'm curious to hear if anyone has some similar (or different) observations about some of these speakers. I really want to audition some of the Paradigm speakers (studio 100s & S4 come to mind), but unforunately the only Signature dealer in NYC hasn't set up the S4s in over 2 weeks (baffels me as to why they wouldn't be set up).

    This sure is a daunting exercise...and who knows what the difference will be when I finally get a pair into my apartment.
     
  2. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    One thing is for sure, once you get any of those speakers you are going to far outclassing the rest of your gear.

    That is a good list of products and the funny thing is that of all those speakers the two brands that I would be the most interested in and then of course heard great things about are the two I have yet to hear. Devore Gibbon 8's and any Joseph Audio speakers.

    Both of those are great speakers, but really deserve top-notch pieces in front of them (amps, preamps, sources) to really be able to strut their stuff.

    I have heard all the other speakers except the Thiel's and none of them would be ranked as a top-notch speakers in my book, therefore they certainly weren't speakers that I ended up buying either. So I guess what I am trying to say is go with what your gut and ears are telling you and that's probably to get the Joseph's. Just be prepared to feel the need to upgrade around them.

    Oh and since you aren't familiar with them here is a review of the Devore speakers: http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/devore/gibbon8.html
     
  3. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Not floorstanders, but the Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE was on its way out, you could find one for probably well under 3.5k (3.5 was msrp if i recall) and they are some very impressive speakers. And don't be put off by their size, they go deeeep. Worth a listen if possible, I'll bet there's a dyn dealer somewhere around NY.
     
  4. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I know my components will be the weak link, but I kinda feel that I can get the most performance by basically sinking everything I've got into the speakers. That being said, I still plan on adding a separate amp so the weakest link will likely be my HK avr-230 & CD Player (older Marantz). Based on what I've read on here though, the speakers seem to be responsible for 95% or more of the sound, with all the combined electronics accounting for that final 5%.
     
  5. Tom D

    Tom D Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello, I too am looking at speakers - I would recomend a listen to Canton Karat S8 DC and Linn Ninka speakers - to me they image well, are detailed and the treble is sweet. I auditioned both these speakers and I liked both.:b
     
  6. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Speakers may account for the majority of the overall sound, but I would not call them 95% of the chain. In a well ballanced system, I'd say might be more like 70%. Picking the speakers you like is probably the single most important thing you can do though, and splurging for something great to start off with is definitely not a bad idea. Your amplification choice is probably the next largest factor, IMO, then source and processing.

    Missing from that list are Paradigm Signatures; might want to give them a listen, but to me, the Josephs will still sound better, though everyone has different opinions.

    Based on that list of speakers, you're going to be wanting some pretty decent amplification.
     
  7. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    My present system consists of a $150 a pair BIC bookshelves with a SVS 25-31 PC+. This is driven by a HK AVR-230. My plan is to add a separate amp at somewhere around 200 watts/channel.

    I think you will be thrilled with the upgrade in speakers, I would not worry about the receiver whether your sources are (or are not) outclassed as you will notice an immense difference in the soundstage (if calibrated) which will delight you, unfortunately it may send you on a quest to tweak this/better that/ and the electronics will be the next thing you start researching.

    Some of your list I have heard, the B&W's, I believe at some point (after my purchase the Thiels) the Kef etc.
    The Joseph's sound very familiar (although I may be mixing up with Morel) as speakers I would have liked to demo, but could not run into at that time.

    I purchased the Beethoven's and have been very happy with them. One factor, which heavily weighed in my purchase, were mains with silk dome tweeters. I found while going through shops and not being familiar with the names that I could peg silk dome tweeters Vs metal or composite of any type, when I inquired of the sale people as regards construction. I can not stand any shrillness in the higher freq, which fatigues me, and I quickly realized my ears gravitated towards units with silk-domes..

    It feels like, the VA's are not as main stream but 'popular choice' never stops me during purchase considerations. [​IMG] While not the definitive sound, I would prefer to own (and have not found yet) they came closer to what I hoped to get near too, - than many I demoed.

    I once read shortly after my purchase a comment from a buyer who had returned his B's, after home demo stating that he loved them, felt like tearing his hair over it; but they could be schizoid. To some extent I agree, in the mid/high ranges these voice beautifully and there are a several CD's particularly, with heavy string; violin/piano/solo guitar (classical/jazz etc/bells etc) during which play these speakers take my breath away with the immediacy clarity and resonance of the individual notes. The handling of the frequency range that covers vocals is IMO better than many in their (orginal) price range They handle heavy metal/rock/new age/ admirably but if very fast hard techno/metal was my SOLE listening preference (I listen to everything), at that time I prob. would have gone with the Martin Logins (just because my husband lusted after their LOOKS but finaly felt the VA's prefermored better across a broader freq range.) The man who stated he returned his listed his trouble as erratic bass with these during some music selections, - but I can tell you a piano going low octaves is captivating. I did read they had some bad drivers at one time which (may?) have been his issue. Combined with a subw for the HT side, these are wonderful with all the power needed for a cinematic experince and great range and aplomp. If your total listening is done in 2-channel I would demo for a long time to decide if they are aggressive enough speakers in the lower registers. (Fast hard busy rock/metal only). Each of these makes have their own personality and would IMO better suit extensive listening as regards only one prefered 'type' of music genre.

    I truly think you are wise regarding adding an amp next. Most of the floorstanders NEED power to really shine. You will still be delighted bringing them home, compared to most satellite/bookshelf's but should be greatly pleased with the improvement when you add more power. I have an Outlaw 770 200w per channel, these speakers preformed much better with this amp than the ones used in the showrooms.

    I'm waiting on a SVS PC-Ultra right now to be delivered, It was a compromise purchase for me at the time due to space/research time/ and amount I want to spend with my current lack of knowledge in LF units. Will be interesting to see how this very manly subw (according to the posts I read here) integrates in my room with these very refined mains.

    I do have the VA Maestro center channel but am running small Def Tech satellites for the surrounds which drives me insane. Even recalibrating the other night watching the SPL meter jump around while trimming side/back channels and comparing their harhness Vs the steady and smooth response of the Beethoven's during test tone play, - drove me nuts. I just have not figured out how to streeeech the room to fit larger surrounds (more B's or smaller siblings) into this space!

    Whichever you choose I think the speaker purchase is an extremely smart purchase for the largest noticeable improvement in your system, at this time. What did you like about the Joseph's?
     
  8. Nathan Hamstra

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    Those are all out of my price range, and I haven't listened to any of them, but I'll throw my comments out there anyways.

    The Joseph Audios have certainly been highly reviewed in the past - I'm sure you wouldn't go wrong at that price.

    Dynaudios and Proacs are beautiful, and sound beautiful, but with limited amplification, I wouldn't bother as they generally aren't particularly sensitive (correct me if I'm wrong). (EDIT: Just looked up the Countour 1.4's, and sensitivity = 85, which is really low - the Proacs don't look to be that insensitive).

    Other speakers to look at:
    Meadowlark Shearwater or Kestrel
    Audio Physic Tempo or Yara
    Vandersteen 3's
    Von Schweikert VR-2/VR-3.5/VR-4/jr
    Anything by Totem, Aerial Acoustics, or Sonus Faber in your price range (they all seem to put out a lot of highly reviewed speakers)

    Given your list, I doubt you could go wrong with the Joseph's, the JM Labs, or the Vienna Acoustics' - they all have great reputations.
     
  9. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I was going to recommend Aerial as well, but I don't think they make a floorstander at this price point, I believe their lowest one was ~$4000? (Model 6).
     
  10. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    And thus the problem, at what point do you just stop looking and buy the best of what you've heard? So many choices (& suggestions, thanks).

    Regarding the Josephs, I was most impressed by their imaging & detail. One of my test tracks was Cowboy Junkies 'Working on a Building' (I think that's the track...number 5) from the Trinity sessions CD. It seemed that you could pinpoint the precise location (floating in mid-air) of the voice & each instrument in the recording. While I would tend to put my head down while doing critical listening, these speakers made me look up as I would essentially visualize the singer about 2 feet above the speakers & smack in the middle of the soundstage. On other tracks (Digable Planets-Cool like Dat), there are these strange electronic noises during parts of the song. With the Josephs, they really stood out as a distint sound. On the other speakers, everything was blended together a little more.

    I guess it could be a matter of preference, but I was amazed at the clarity & image, which is something I think I'm going to like in a new pair of speakers.

    Other distinctive tracks included Sublime's 'What I got,' which the Josephs also played with amazing clarity.

    Finally, the bass response seemed sufficient. I think the speakers are rated to 32hz (although this may not be accurate given the 2-way design and lack of a bass driver), but I threw on some techno/dance music (Amin Tobin) and the speakers seemed to handle it well (and I've got the SVS to help out too). I listen (& my roomates listen) to A LOT of hip-hop, so the bass is important.

    So that's why the Josephs are winning out. I'm trying to find the above characteristics in other speakers (preferably at a lower price point), but I haven't yet.
     
  11. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I tried out the Josephs with some mostly electronic techno (DJ Tiesto In My Memory) that showed off their midbass and midrange response very clearly. Not too many speakers really impress me with techno, but these did. Then moved to a couple of female vocals - (Fiona Apple, Loreena McKennit) so natural it was like they were in the room. Next, some fast, busy jazz - guitar sounded perfect and all of the brass could be picked out and identified - no blur at all. My reference track is Patricia Barber's Nardis off the Cafe Blue SACD, and they did an amazing job with it (CD layer, not SACD in this case) One very interesting thing I found with these speakers is that they also sound great off axis; almost anywhere in the room, they sounded clean, and we just threw the setup together, though it was in a listening room. These were being driven with an Arcam A80 and a CD73.
     

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