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post #81 of 110 Old 03-01-08, 01:51 PM
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Josuah
 
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Location: San Jose, CA
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

I second Jake's suggestion to really try and find a place to audition some of the Internet direct brands through their forums. You've gone through a lot of excellent choices but your budget seems to be forcing you to compromise. Missing out on ID brands which tend to provide a better value might be something you regret later (that's how I felt about a year after picking up Monitor Audio S8's).

AV123 has a thread on their forum for finding places to audition. Salk's forum is on AudioCircle.

I didn't bother looking at the Axiom line myself because their published graphs show they fall off >15kHz, which is perfect for smaller or live rooms but I've got a large heavily treated room and want those frequencies.
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post #82 of 110 Old 03-02-08, 05:27 PM Thread Starter
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Greg
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Quote:
Josuah wrote: View Post
I second Jake's suggestion to really try and find a place to audition some of the Internet direct brands through their forums. You've gone through a lot of excellent choices but your budget seems to be forcing you to compromise. Missing out on ID brands which tend to provide a better value might be something you regret later (that's how I felt about a year after picking up Monitor Audio S8's).

AV123 has a thread on their forum for finding places to audition. Salk's forum is on AudioCircle.

I didn't bother looking at the Axiom line myself because their published graphs show they fall off >15kHz, which is perfect for smaller or live rooms but I've got a large heavily treated room and want those frequencies.
I did. I listened to the Salk SongTowers, and Ascend Sierra's this weekend.
Still want to hear the Rockets, but haven't looked for an audition yet.
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post #83 of 110 Old 03-02-08, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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Greg
 
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nearly attainable dream round

Speakerquest (Round 9)
aka: the budget buster

The other day I went to listen to some speakers that were in the $5000 + range, and all I can say is WOW. If I were to spend that much money on a pair of fronts I could get almost everything I want out of a pair of speakers. Actually, they sounded like I thought a pair of $3000 speakers would sound like, when I started listening. Take all this with a huge shaker of salt because up to this point I had never heard a speaker that costs so ’ much money! Forgive me if I gush...

Aerial 7B (≈$5000)

After the hi-fi guy finished fritzing around with the 7B’s getting them in exactly the right spot, micro adjusting one speaker, then listening and micro adjusting the other one... for about ten minutes after I had arrived. I had phoned ahead (the day before, and again about an hour before our appointment) I managed to get a little preview of the off axis sound as I wandered around looking at all the really expensive stuff that littered the room. I wasn’t familiar with whatever he had playing, and didn’t particularly care for it, but I will say that the sound remained relatively consistent as I walked around. He finally was satisfied and said they were ready... He had them set up with a 150 or 200wpc (can’t remember for sure) solid state amp to come close to what I would most likely be driving them with:

First up I put on The Beatles “Come Together.” Within seconds, I was about 8 or 9 years old, sitting on the orange corduroy couch my family had back in the 70’s; listening to the Abbey Road album that my Uncle had just given me for my birthday, on my Dads old tube amp through his classic Advent speakers ! It was an amazing experience... total time warp. While the 7B’s had all the warmth of the Advent/tube combo they sounded better. First note I wrote down was “now, that's what I am talkin’ about.” Bass is full, rich, smooth and detailed. Vocals are clear and smooth. I could feel the drum beats thudding off my chest. Highs were detailed and sharp but without a cutting edge. Okay, it was cranked up much louder than my normal listening level but I was enjoying it immensely. We turned it down a little and proceeded with “The End.” The drums were thick and meaty, I felt like I was stoned and I haven’t smoked weed in years! I was literally speechless. During the crescendo in this song I did notice that the upper mid section was coming off a bit forward. As I sat there listening, I kept thinking that these things image like a mother****er.

I changed gears with Fela Kuti, and again noticed the impact of bass and kick drums along with the clarity in the low end. Double kicks were separate and distinct. The brass came in and I thought that it had a slight edge to it. I thought that this was a “full range” speaker; dynamic but not “in your face” about it.

Erykah Badu was lush, warm and smooth on these Aerial’s. Bass went deep and stayed tight (and that is no small task with the first track on her Baduizm CD). Rim shot’s sounded like wood on metal. I also noted a nice separation of sound here.

Grant Green had piano sounding natural, cymbals decaying nicely, and dead on guitar tone. In the beginning of “Idle Moments” (from the CD of the same name; same track I have been using when I refer to Grant Green) there is a very low and easy saxophone and very light vibraphone that I had never noticed before, and I’ve listened to this track at least 24 times since I started this search. Acoustic bass sounded woody and full. Easy hits on the snare drum sounded nearly perfect. The slight distortion on the guitar is present, and appropriate.

With Fu Manchu the 7B’s hold together nicely. Music here is full and detailed. Guitars, bass and drums are separate and distinct. There is a nice growl to the electric guitars, though not overly aggressive. I am starting to feel like this is a somewhat laid-back speaker.

I thought that this was a very nice looking speaker, conservative and classic in appearance. IMO this is a warm and musical speaker; I love the bass; it does nearly everything quite well, the time warp trick included . * I should add that, for me, the Aerial 7B had what I would call a nostalgic sound to it; it brought back warm and fuzzy memories and I would be tempted to use that same phrase to describe its sound though “fuzzy” would have to be interpreted in the best possible sense (not indistinct, just not hard edged)

As I was listening to the Aerials the shop owner kept asking me questions in-between songs and listening to what I was playing. About half way into Fela Kuti and a lot of chin scratching he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would like to hear something else after this one, of course I said, “sure.” Turns out this guy sees his customers as a challenge... to match up speakers and equipment to the listener. I think this is a very cool approach, and I think he does a good job of it, judging by what he unboxed for me to listen to...

T+A Criterion TS 300 (≈ $5,500)

This is a German speaker company that designs and builds drivers, cabinets, and crossovers all in-house (if I remember correctly). The cabinets were molded MDF jobs with some sexy curves in the side pannels, and a dark walnut veneer. Nice looking cabinet, though I didn’t care for the “radiator grill” covering the front port.

The sound? in a word... awesome. Keep in mind that these were literally right out of the box. So if you believe in break-in (I do, to a certain extent, because there are moving parts involved) I imagine the sound would improve with a bit of time on them. The dealer said that they get drastically better, but I tend to doubt the “drastic” part of that statement. The Beatles started of this audition and I found the sound to be tight, impactful, and very fast in the bass. Detail was apparent throughout the musical spectrum. Cymbals sounded excellent, and crisp. The imaging on the TS 300’s was simply amazing. The speakers just disappeared, even when I opened my eyes it was very hard to think of the sound that was filling the room was coming from these two fairly thin towers.

Grant Green’s sound was right on. excellent tone on his guitar. Acoustic bass extended very low and had that woody resonant quality that you hear and feel when you hear one live in a small jazz club. Piano sounded very natural and conveyed a percussive quality when keys were struck. The tone on the saxophone was outstanding. Again the imaging and soundstage were opened up in front of me so that I could literally locate the positioning of the instruments; Piano toward the back and left of center, sax mid stage just right of center... The snare sound was nearly perfect.

Erykah Badu sounded incredible on these T+A speakers. Crisp; detailed; tight; deep; impact; dynamic; Wow. Her vocal was sexy, lush and full. Rim shots were wood on metal accurate though they came across slightly forward than on the Aerials. Bass was very full and controlled.

This is a different animal than the Aerial’s. More dynamic, more detailed, and not as warm. The TS-300 takes what I liked best about the Hawk and adds it to the best of the Studio 100, while I would liken the 7B’s to more of a Focus 220ish sound, but much better. Both speakers had truly amazing imaging capabilities.

If this is what you get for $5g or more, consider me officially impressed. Is it worth the price? ...hard to say. You decide for yourself. The differences between these two candidates and the < $3g speakers I have heard, lies mostly in imaging and attention to the depth and control of low bass frequencies; improved impact; more fullness of the midrange; and detail with out sounding harsh or bright. I would love to own either of these expensive (to me) speakers. Neither one is perfect, but they both have nearly everything that I want out of my fronts, even though they each have a different sound. The only significant compromise, from my perspective, would be price (and that IS significant).

Edit: I have been searching the web for any information about these excellent sounding speakers (TS-300) and have not been able to find much, most of what I found has been in German or Russian. Based on the size and weight of these speakers, something didn't quite jive with their price tag to me. I was tipped off, by another forum member, about potential for them being overpriced in the states because of the weak dollar and strong euro and i am certain that this has increased their price. Another concern that I had, besides currency conversion, is the limited distribution and availability state side. This thought popped into my head as soon as the dealer said that he was one of only 4 dealers in the country. Because almost nobody else has them, their price can skyrocket unchecked (basic law of supply and demand), especially since they are such a fantastic sounding speaker. The third factor that is affecting their price is shipping costs, everything is made in Germany and shipped on an individual basis as far (as I can tell) so this is also a significant contribution to their cost. So, after a considerable amount of digging and translating languages I found a site that also had pricing information for some of the Dynaudio speakers, including the Focus 220's which cary a msrp of $3000 USD. Based on that number, and compared with what the same place was charging for the TS 300's they should actually cost $3200 USD !!!!!!!

Last edited by Funkmonkey; 03-09-08 at 07:58 PM.
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post #84 of 110 Old 03-03-08, 11:25 PM
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Josuah
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Looking forward to your opinions on the Sierras and Songtowers. Those are both speakers I had on my short list before picking up a pair of Minis.

I've also been led to believe that the Aeriel 7Bs are similar to the Onix Reference 3s in terms of quality, perhaps a bit better because of the different crossover. (The 7B has it's woofer cross over at 400Hz, while the Ref 3 has its midrange woofer at 2.5kHz.) I'd love 20Ts--a ribbon at 3.5kHz and up is amazing--but they are expensive! So I got the Minis. Now I just need some good gear for the Minis.

The retail prices are out of your price range, but if you find used ones they might fall into it. Worth a thought.
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post #85 of 110 Old 03-04-08, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Greg
 
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Two ID companies

Speakerquest (Round 10)

I have been anxiously waiting to hear these two speakers for quite a few weeks now, and this last weekend, I had the opportunity, thanks to two very nice fellow enthusiasts that opened their homes and allowed a schmuck like me to come in and listen to their gear. Thank you Curtis and David, both of you helped to make this weekend fun and educational for me. You guys both have very sweet setups.

Before I get going I want to refer you all to the last speakers that I listened to ($5,000 range), literally a day or two before I heard these two far less expensive speakers, so my ears were completely jaded, but I will try and forget that ear-altering experience and be fair as I write this...



Ascend Acoustics - Sierra-1 ($848 natural, $898 Black)



Saturday morning 10:30 am (after about three weeks of trying to find a good time for both of us) I got to hear the Sierra’s. They looked great in natural Bamboo, construction was seamless. They were a little bigger than I thought they would be, but still comfortably small if size is an issue for you. I think Curtis has 200 watts of ICE power behind his Sierra’s, and I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong (at least I hope he will) suffice it to say there was plenty of power behind these things. We ran them full range at first so I could get a feel for them on their own, and added his HSU Research sub into the mix (crossed at 60 Hz, maybe 80, forgot to write that down) after I ran through my test tracks...

With Grant Green the first thing I noticed was that the cymbals were clear, though not overly crisp. The tone on the guitar is nice and the light distortion is just audible; not accentuated. The Sierra’s are imaging as well as many of the speakers I listened to at twice their price. I noticed that while the acoustic bass sounded good it was not as full and resonant as I like to hear it. The tone on the saxophone is reedy and smooth, very nice representation. Piano tone is good but not baby grand realistic to my ears, it is just missing a little something that I can’t quite put my finger on, deep resonance from the piano body maybe? Maybe just residual effects from the high dollar sound... I thought the Sierras had a good balance of sound through the range, nothing was jumping out at me. The vibes came a little forward but not too much and sounded accurate. I thought that their overall sound on this was pretty good, but maybe a little closed, at least not as open as some that I have heard.

I think I put in Fela Kuti next, not sure but at least I am going to talk about it next. I noticed right away that the bass I was hearing was not the full depth of the recording, though what I was hearing sounded good. Drums and cymbals were tight. Brass felt slightly forward and clear, not at all harsh. I thought the Sierra’s did a really good job with the horns, there is a section of this recording where there are probably four or five horns playing at once not sure what they all are but I could distinctly hear an alto saxophone, and at least one trumpet, if not two, maybe a trumpet and a coronet, whatever. My point is that they are separate and distinct and sound like brass.

The guitars in the Beatles “come together” sound great, but vocals sound a little thin to me. The bass guitar has a nice punch to it and sounds pretty full though it does not wrap around me like a blanket when there is a thick layer of it. During “the End” the drums are pretty full for such a small speaker. The sound got slightly indistinct during the crescendo of this song, but only slightly.

Erykah Badu was up next and it is obvious to me that this little speaker is not even going to try for the lowest note, you can hear it’s overtones but the meat of that low, low bass note just isn’t there. (When we replayed this song later with the HSU sub, the song really filled out and opened up, capturing everything really well.) Vocals were lush and smooth, mid-bass was solid, rim shots sounded good, a touch soft to my ear though. I can hear the sound of the rim shot ripple through the drum head. That‘s the first time I noticed that... cool.

More cowbell? Yes please. The Fu Manchu song I have been using has a little cowbell in it but for some reason it sounded too soft. Guitars are crunchy, and bass is full, though they do seem to blend together a bit. (with this song, $1500 and up seems to be the cut off for separation of bass and guitar, could be because of recording quality or the fact that they are playing the same thing and it is meant to blend together and therefor very hard to reproduce them as separate and distinct ...thought they did a good job of the same task with brass earlier...)

Just for fun, I brought along Stanton Moore and started without the sub, but added it in the mix shortly into the song. Baritone sax sounded really good, cymbal work was distinct and had nice decay. Again the addition of the sub really seemed to open up the sound of the Sierra’s strangely both in the high and low frequencies. I had also brought some MC 900 ft Jesus to try out and the Sierras + sub handled it well. They sounded “computer” tight. with electronic cymbals and provided a nice enveloping atmosphere. Their imaging really shines when played with a sub.

Are they worth twice their price? I doubt it. But they are a steal at under a grand. I would highly recommend using them with a sub, the removal of the low bass frequencies seemed to allow more power to get to the tweeter and really open these speakers up.



Salk Sound- SongTower (≈$1500)



Sunday, I went to a local Salk Sound customer’s place to hear the SongTowers. I had the pleasure of meeting another enthusiast, named David, and his 6 or 7 year old son who was sporting a classic Led Zeppelin t-shirt and proved to be just as enthusiastic about the SongTowers as his father, at one point proclaiming “I like these much better than your old speakers, Dad.” David turned out to be a very nice guy and had a great collection of music that he streamed through a “slingbox” and receiver, and ultimately into his speakers. Fortunately he had a few of the songs that I have been using for auditions in his collection, and as he didn’t have a CD player hooked up we managed to improvise with a couple of substitutes.

Before I forget, I have to comment right up front that these are some beautiful looking speakers. I am a wood guy and absolutely love the natural beauty of real wood finishes. I have seen several pictures of Jim Salks work on the internet but they really do not come close to the aesthetic value that these speakers have. Way better looking than 90% of the speakers I have listened to, and as nice or nicer than the other 10%. I also liked the magnetic grills, nice touch and practical.

I am really glad that David had the Beatles “Abbey Road” on hand because out of everything that I use to evaluate speakers, if this one doesn’t sound good, I am not interested. And sound good it did. Bass guitar came through tight and accurate, but seemed to be lacking a little fullness on the bottom. Vocals were brilliant, not forward, not recessed, but just right, in perfect balance with the rest of the music. Cymbals are clear and distinct. I can hear finger slides on strings. They are also exhibiting a pretty impressive soundstage. The drums in “the End” sound really good, but the guitars sound excellent. At the crescendo nothing is lost or blended together.

I was also able to hear Erykah Badu on these, not so little babies (once again they are a bit bigger than I thought). I knew before I heard them that they only extend down to 40 Hz so I did not expect to be impressed with the low, low bass... and I wasn’t. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with how low that they did go. (To my ear that 40 Hz number may be a little on the conservative side as I think they realistically get into at least the upper maybe mid 30’s, these notes do drop a fair amount in volume but they seem to be there.) Bass was full and controlled with this bass challenging music, but they failed to get the very bottom. Rim shots sounded nice, not too forward; and cymbals were crisp and accurate. Once again the vocals were very, very nice. I have been using “smooth and lush” when I like the sound of Erykahs vocals and it posses those qualities here, but they are not accentuated in any way. Instead, they sound very accurate and natural.

I listened to a little Stan Getz w/ Astrud Gilberto singing the classic and timeless “Girl From Ipanema,” and got the chills (a very good thing). The piano sounded great, and the tone on the saxophone was velvety and rich, awesome. I think that smooth, easy, acoustic music is what these towers excel at.

Instead of Fu Manchu we tried a little Nirvana. They sounded very clean (unlike the actual appearance of the band ). Vocals were right-on soaring over the top of the music. Drums sounded really good, and electric guitars sounded crunchy though maybe a little thin and not as forward as I remember them. Everything is separate and distinct

I was impressed with the nice open sound of U2’s “One,” and the outstanding vocal of Diana Krall. Her “All or Nothing at All” is a very nice recording and I can see why so many people use her music to talk about a speakers performance. That being said, this will be the last time that I use it . Acoustic bass sounded very nice but I thought that it lacked a little body to the sound. Piano once again sounded very nice, and guitar tone was excellent. We also listened to a little Charles Mingus, but it wasn’t a recording with which I am familiar so I will only note that the variety of horns here were all distinct, but we were talking over the music at this point and had to get on with our day, my audition was done. I wish I could comment more on the SongTowers performance with brass as I think that these are tricky instruments to reproduce accurately... Oh well, my guess if that they would do well.

I have heard that this speaker is “all about the mid-range,” and that is unequivocally, a true statement. It is really a guitar, vocal and saxophone kind of speaker. It seems to capture the tone, and nuances of the instruments better than most other speakers do. I imagine that they would be truly amazing with acoustic singer songwriter type stuff. Without hesitation I would say that this easily the best $1500 speaker I have heard. Some of the +$2000 speakers do some things better but not many have this nice of a midrange. Very nice speaker, great value, but don’t expect ultra-low bass, or dog whistle highs.
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post #86 of 110 Old 03-04-08, 01:15 PM
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jakewash
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Quote:
Josuah wrote: View Post
I didn't bother looking at the Axiom line myself because their published graphs show they fall off >15kHz, which is perfect for smaller or live rooms but I've got a large heavily treated room and want those frequencies.
You should still get those frequencies. I have found they drop off about 18khz in my cushy/soft room. Measured with test tones and SPL meter.

On another note, have you had your hearing checked? Seriously, you may find you can't even hear above the 15khz range anway, I know a number of people like this. I did and found I can still hear just above 17khz but so little happens way up there I haven't noticed anything missing, but then again if I couldn't hear it in the first place i wouldn't know it was there. I have some friends that spent endless hours searching for the best upper end they could find, only when I suggested they have a listen to test tones through my system they lost the sound about 15khz. They then went and had a professional hearing exam. My father can't hear anything above 6khz. Just a thought.
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post #87 of 110 Old 03-04-08, 02:33 PM
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Josuah
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Thanks for the info on the Sierra-1s and Songtowers. They kind of match up with my expectations, not having heard them myself. I considered the Sierra-1s to be budget bookshelves (my "budget") that would still satisfy and the Songtowers to be one of the best introductory full-range floorstanders (my "introductory").

Haven't done thorough high frequency hearing detection, but I can hear 15kHz (on a test tone disc). I just figured why consider the Axioms when my budget is higher and I don't need to compromise on that.
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post #88 of 110 Old 03-04-08, 07:36 PM
Mark
 
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Location: Kendalia, Texas
Posts: 55
Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

I am still considering the Axioms. Anybody here own them or actually heard them. I suspect that I would be quite happy with them. Compared to what I have now, anything is better. LOL. Also have been looking at used Magnepans 1.2 or 1.6 and been looking at Martin Logans. I do want to listen to Paradigm, Martin Logan and Magnepan before I pull the trigger. I do not live in the city, so hard to make time to go listen and well, that is why I have not bought anything yet.
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post #89 of 110 Old 03-05-08, 04:49 AM
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jakewash
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

I have Axioms and love them, but the used ones you are looking at, IMO, sound a touch smoother than the Axioms. You should drop by Axioms' site and check for someone to give you an audition so you can hear them first hand and go from there. I know there are some in Texas just not sure how close.
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post #90 of 110 Old 03-05-08, 09:08 PM
Mark
 
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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Thanks Jake.
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