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Discussion Starter #1
As I have come to find out that I have never owned a set of good speakers, please I beg your indifference to your personal preferences and just try to put yourself into my head for a moment, as I have put in over 2 months time and effort into this. That I ask this of you should go a long ways toward showing you good folks how much I respect your abilities and opinions.I am shopping for a set of front mains and center that will be married to my Denon 2808. I have 2-matched Mirage subs outboard of each floor stander at the moment for extended bass.Music and movies 50/50 classic rock, blues C&W. I really like everything except opera, rap, and Techno.
I have auditioned a number of speakers:polk LSI9+very good
New Mirage OS3 FS towers=to tinny-is that a word?
Dana 680=to laid back
Paragram Studio 10= just sounded too smal
lRevel M12= bass covered detail/too colored would be the right word?
Vienna Hayden=Sweet like your mothers kiss on the check/no excitement?
B&W 685= I loved it? Just right.
Speakers that I have been reading glowing reports on for the last 4 weeks but have been unable to audition. These are the ones I would like your opinion on mentally comparing them to the B&W685 please.
Swan Diva 6.1
Totem Hawk
Salk Sound Tower
Vandersteen 2CE Sig II
Usher Be-718RHB TK-5CT
Or any others you may have a suggestion about. But remember please this is my head and my money so please leave your ears at the door.I sincerely thank you all for your time, comments and mental effort.
Mike
 

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I sincerely suggest you audition the Vandersteen products. I did and fell in love with the sound. I cannot necessarily compare them with all the others that you have auditioned, but they are engaging and many people like them. I see that they are on your list. I have heard some of the speakers you have heard (or their brethren) and I personally prefer the Vandersteen (I have the 3A Sig, but I understand that the 2CE SigII is very similar). Of course, many thing are variable, including your musical selection, your ears, your sense of headspace (i.e., your mood), your accompanying electonics, and, of course, your room.

Let us know how it goes...
 

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Based on your comments and the things you have been listening to, I'd recommend listening to the Thiel products. The 685 is a hard one to beat in terms of value, IMO.
 

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Having heard the Vandersteens, I think they are amazing especially for 2 channel. Have fun. Dennis
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I sincerely suggest you audition the Vandersteen products. I did and fell in love with the sound. I cannot necessarily compare them with all the others that you have auditioned, but they are engaging and many people like them. I see that they are on your list. I have heard some of the speakers you have heard (or their brethren) and I personally prefer the Vandersteen (I have the 3A Sig, but I understand that the 2CE SigII is very similar). Of course, many thing are variable, including your musical selection, your ears, your sense of headspace (i.e., your mood), your accompanying electonics, and, of course, your room.

Let us know how it goes...
Thanks all for the good input. I went out yesterday and auditioned a lot of B&W's at a store that had them all lined up so we could switch from one to the other. As far as they went I found a hard choice. The 685 with a center, or the 684 with center and last but not least the 683 with no center (1500.00 budget) the 85 and 84'2 sounded pretty much the same just a fuller on the 648. The 683 was a different dog altogether as it had a much flatter precise response and sound. A little like a CameroZ28 and a Corvette:) Both very good and fast but different. Then I went to audition a Vandersteen 2Ce SigII. Now that’s a horse of a different color for sure. Very open with a very large pleasing sound field (good for HT) the absolute sweet spot was rather small though. The clarity was good enough that (as a guitar player for 40+ years) I could tell you what guitar the artist was using. They are kinda ugly compared to some (Handsome my mother would say) and they are bulky with large footprint, and look rather dated, terminal post and all, along with being fussy with the equipment married to them. Jeeze I think I just described my-self. I wonder if I could give them a good home? I could only give them 14" out from wall and one side of each would be against a new slim line DLP, so not covered but there non the less. Other sides good breathing room as each has a hallway. Get the pic:)?
 

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Go to John Fort Audio, 850 South Greenville Avenue Suite 100
Richardson, Texas 75081, 972-644-1199 and ask to audition the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature IIs. You might stop right there in your search.

Audio Video Unplugged in Farmers Branch and Krystal Clear Audio Video in Dallas should have the Totem Hawk, which should get a listen.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you Jackfish!! Big time:)
I had gotten down to the nut cuttin as we say out in the country I thought
Vandersteen 2Ce SigII
Salk Song Tower
Rocket 850
and now another I want to check out the Totem Hawk
I have auditioned all the above except the ST and that is tommorow. I will have to do the TH after and just make up my mind:)
Just droped in to see what condition my condition was in. Yea
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Auditioned the Song Towers and they are awsome! Clean mids that you just can't congest no matter how hard you try. Highs that set just right on the ears. Good sound stage. A little week in the bass so they do need a sub.
Vandersteen very full and huge right to left soundstage with lots of detail but also some of the detailed placement gets lost in that huge sound stage. Foward to rear soundstage a lot smaller.
Rocket 850 gotta wait and see.
 

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I've spent the last 4 days getting to know the Rocket RS850's and comparing them to my Mackie HR824mk2's. The RS850's are clean and detailed top to bottom, a little more so than the Mackies. Also, they are very smooth and non-fatiguing at higher volumes, unlike my Mackies.

Where they fail to impress me is their imaging/sound stage and relatively small sweet spot - the Mackies really are much better at this the more I directly compare them. With the Rockets, I constantly am reminded that I am listening to speakers while with the Mackies I hear a much more diffuse sound that extends well outside the speakers and with a huge sweet spot. I can sit anywhere between the speakers and still get a very clear image.

I hope my opinion helps, even though I may not be an "experienced audiophile." Best of luck with your decision.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks that helps a lot. It's hard to find a pair of Rockets but on that explanation as I have heard the Mackies and agree with your review of them I will pass ,and just audition the Totem Hawks this weekend.
 

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Martin Logan ... heavenly bliss! If there is any better, I haven't heard them.
I would endorse this opinion. When watching home theatre, most high quality speakers make me feel as though I am listening to a high quality surround sound system. The Martin Logans make me feel as though "I'm there!", especially on really complex material such as sporting events where there are literally thousands of little noises (from thousands of spectators) going on all the time. You can hear the sound of the breeze that is blowing, the intake of breath from the spectators, the subtle echoes of murmuring throughout the crowd, the cough from a distant spectator, and so on. You can hear the atmosphere! The Martin Logans seem to separate all these little noises into distinct and separate sounds whereas most other speakers in my experience tend to blend them all into 'background noise'.

Limitations?

Because they radiate sound both forwards and backwards, they can become a little bright for some ears if the room has hard, reflective surfaces. There are a number of solutions to this that will cost you a little or a lot of money, but one that will not cost anything if you are facing them along a rectangular room, is to break the normal rules of positioning and put them close to the side walls toed-in so the sound will reflect off the side walls onto the back wall and then back to the listeners. Each reflection weakens the reflected signal and tones down the brightness. Because their dispersion is limited to 30 degrees, they can be placed close to the wall without significant forward reflection off the side walls.

The top models can be quite expensive but excellent second-hand units can be found for a fraction of the new price.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I would endorse this opinion. When watching home theatre, most high quality speakers make me feel as though I am listening to a high quality surround sound system. The Martin Logans make me feel as though "I'm there!", especially on really complex material such as sporting events where there are literally thousands of little noises (from thousands of spectators) going on all the time. You can hear the sound of the breeze that is blowing, the intake of breath from the spectators, the subtle echoes of murmuring throughout the crowd, the cough from a distant spectator, and so on. You can hear the atmosphere! The Martin Logans seem to separate all these little noises into distinct and separate sounds whereas most other speakers in my experience tend to blend them all into 'background noise'.

Limitations?

Because they radiate sound both forwards and backwards, they can become a little bright for some ears if the room has hard, reflective surfaces. There are a number of solutions to this that will cost you a little or a lot of money, but one that will not cost anything if you are facing them along a rectangular room, is to break the normal rules of positioning and put them close to the side walls toed-in so the sound will reflect off the side walls onto the back wall and then back to the listeners. Each reflection weakens the reflected signal and tones down the brightness. Because their dispersion is limited to 30 degrees, they can be placed close to the wall without significant forward reflection off the side walls.

The top models can be quite expensive but excellent second-hand units can be found for a fraction of the new price.
Don't they take a lot of amp to run though? At least thats what I have heard and seen when looking at them. Because of this I have not auditioned any so far. Just bought my Denon 2808 and a set of new speakers is already pushing the WAF headroom:foottap:
 

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Don't they take a lot of amp to run though? At least thats what I have heard . . . and a set of new speakers is already pushing the WAF headroom:foottap:
The biggest issue with electrostatics is whether your amp can drive them. There are two components to this question: impedance and sensitivity.

(1) Impedance. Many amps are not happy at all driving a 4 ohm speaker and Martin Logans are 4 ohms speakers. I looked at the Denon 2808 manual and the specifications quote the two channel dynamic power as 120 watts into 8 ohms and 170 watts into 4 ohms. This seems to suggest that they could handle the Martin Logans from the perspective of impedance, albeit not perfectly (in which case they would produce 240 watts into 4 ohms).

(2) Sensitivity. Are the speakers sensitive enough to produce adequate volume given the power of your amp? Generally the Martin Logans are more efficient than the B & W 685s. The 685's quote an efficiency (sensitivity) of 88dB/Watt/meter. The Logans are typically quoted between 90dB and 93 dB.

For ease of calculation, let's assume you were comparing the B & Ws (with their 88dB sensitivity) to ML's that had a sensitivity of 91dB. This means that the ML's would be 3db louder at one meter when both were fed with a 1 watt signal. How much is this? It means that one channel of the ML's would be equivalent in volume to two channels through the B & W's. Put another way, played at the same volume, the B & Ws would require twice as much power as the MLs. I can explain this in more detail and more mathematics if you wish.

How do we reconcile this with the fact that the B & W 685 is quoted as requiring 25-100 watts and the ML (say the Source with a sensitivity of 90dB) is quoted as requiring 100-200 watts? To be honest, I don't know for sure, but the manufacturers probably think their speakers sound best with amps within the recommended power range. Regardless, your amp should be at least adequate for both.

I have not heard the B & W 685's, nor have I heard the cheaper MLs. My main experience is with the dearer models. I just know that from the quoted specs, the ML's need less power than the 685's to produce the same volume. Reviewers may say that the ML's need lots of power to sound their best, and maybe that is the case. However the real issue for you is not "Are the ML's going to sound their best through my amp?" but rather "Are the ML's going to sound better than the B & W's through my amp?"

Keep in mind though that specs cannot really be trusted. There is no substitute for you listening with your ears through your amplifier and making your call. I suggest you listen to both through your amplifier (take it and some favourite music with you) and let your ears decide.

As for the WAF. I understand. That is why I have tried to quote specs on the cheaper MLs. I would also suggest second-hand. I picked up my Prodigys for 21% of the new price and they are in near perfect condition. It also makes it much easier to upgrade later without losing too much money. In fact if you can get them for a really good price, you may even be able to recover your money on resale. That possibility can carry a lot of weight with the Significant Other.

Hope this is of help.

Alex
 

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Listen to the Totem Hawks. They sound great, are easy to drive and take up the same room as bookshelf speakers on stands.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The biggest issue with electrostatics is whether your amp can drive them. There are two components to this question: impedance and sensitivity.

(1) Impedance. Many amps are not happy at all driving a 4 ohm speaker and Martin Logans are 4 ohms speakers. I looked at the Denon 2808 manual and the specifications quote the two channel dynamic power as 120 watts into 8 ohms and 170 watts into 4 ohms. This seems to suggest that they could handle the Martin Logans from the perspective of impedance, albeit not perfectly (in which case they would produce 240 watts into 4 ohms).

(2) Sensitivity. Are the speakers sensitive enough to produce adequate volume given the power of your amp? Generally the Martin Logans are more efficient than the B & W 685s. The 685's quote an efficiency (sensitivity) of 88dB/Watt/meter. The Logans are typically quoted between 90dB and 93 dB.

For ease of calculation, let's assume you were comparing the B & Ws (with their 88dB sensitivity) to ML's that had a sensitivity of 91dB. This means that the ML's would be 3db louder at one meter when both were fed with a 1 watt signal. How much is this? It means that one channel of the ML's would be equivalent in volume to two channels through the B & W's. Put another way, played at the same volume, the B & Ws would require twice as much power as the MLs. I can explain this in more detail and more mathematics if you wish.

How do we reconcile this with the fact that the B & W 685 is quoted as requiring 25-100 watts and the ML (say the Source with a sensitivity of 90dB) is quoted as requiring 100-200 watts? To be honest, I don't know for sure, but the manufacturers probably think their speakers sound best with amps within the recommended power range. Regardless, your amp should be at least adequate for both.

I have not heard the B & W 685's, nor have I heard the cheaper MLs. My main experience is with the dearer models. I just know that from the quoted specs, the ML's need less power than the 685's to produce the same volume. Reviewers may say that the ML's need lots of power to sound their best, and maybe that is the case. However the real issue for you is not "Are the ML's going to sound their best through my amp?" but rather "Are the ML's going to sound better than the B & W's through my amp?"

Keep in mind though that specs cannot really be trusted. There is no substitute for you listening with your ears through your amplifier and making your call. I suggest you listen to both through your amplifier (take it and some favourite music with you) and let your ears decide.

As for the WAF. I understand. That is why I have tried to quote specs on the cheaper MLs. I would also suggest second-hand. I picked up my Prodigys for 21% of the new price and they are in near perfect condition. It also makes it much easier to upgrade later without losing too much money. In fact if you can get them for a really good price, you may even be able to recover your money on resale. That possibility can carry a lot of weight with the Significant Other.

Hope this is of help.

Alex
Thanks Alex I will give them a tryout this weekend with the Totems and let everyone know.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, Susan, (the best side of me and the WAF comptroller in my life), and I got up early and went out to audition the Totem Hawks today. She has never auditioned any speakers, nor given to understanding or belief of what I was talking about when I did. We took along some of her favorite music, (“The Elegance of Pachelbel”), along with my standard reference songs that I have already listed. We went to the B&W dealer first, where understanding what listening to good music on good equipment, was reveled to her and the light of understanding came to her eyes and ears as we reviewed the 685,684,683,704,805,and the 804. I had her rate them all on my sheet. I will come back to this later.
Then we went to listen to some Totems and ended up meeting one of the most hospitable, gracious, knowledgeable persons I have ever had the pleasure of making an acquaintance with. For an old Texas boy that’s saying A LOT!
His name is Don Krasen, owner of Krystal Clear, in Dallas. He has been in business here for 20+ years, so he is the real deal. Well, Don did not have the Totem Hawks in stock but he had the Totem Arro and the Totem Rainmaker. We would have likely auditioned more, but we just could not stop discussing with Don all the intricacies of system applications and the holistic ability of the synergy of the parts which can add up to over 100% of the realization of the end product, if done properly. He never once tried to move us beyond our budget or ruin us for life by letting us listen to something we could not afford. Goggle his name and you will see, he had the power to do so. What an education Susan and I had TOGETHER today!
Now to the Totem Arro. We were totally amazed at the sound that such a small footprint speaker could put out. It uses the Transmission Line enclosure to accomplish this.
Specs are
Break in time: 100 - 150 hours
Placement from rear wall: 6" - 3' / 152 - 914 mm
Placement distance apart: 2' - 12' / 610 - 3 658 mm
Mass Loading: 10 - 20 lb / 4.5 - 9 kg in each cabinet
Frequency Response: 40 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB (with proper room positioning)
Impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Recommended Power: 20 - 80 W
Crossover frequency: 2.4 kHz, 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley (optimized)
Woofer: 4.5" / 114 mm sandwich cone double magnet”
Tweeter: 1 impregnated textile dome 0.75" / 19 mm (low resonance freq.)
Max SPL's: In average size listening room (12' x 20' / 4 m x 6 m)103 dB peak (12' x 15' / 3 658 x 4 572 mm) from pair at 7' / 2 m
Dimensions (w x h x d): 5.1 x 33.5 x 7.1" / 130 x 850 x 180 mm
We drove both the Arro and Rainmaker speakers in stereo only with an Acram 50w per channel solid-state amp. These little towers would do anyone justice with a small to mid size room without a sub at normal listening levels. When you try to drive them hard, however, we found the highs become too fatiguing. We both felt that they were very forward in sound with a large and definitive sound stage with excellent dynamics. What else can you ask of a speaker of this size? Well, it delivers what you ask in spades and then some for the price point.
I just found out after all these years that Susan, (I gave her the remote and gave her the sweet spot all day), likes to drive it to reference volume! When I asked her why, she told me “It sounds like the performers are right there in front of you!” Guess that says something about my current system, as it has been rare, that she has even listened to any music on it!!
Next the Totem Rainmaker
Specs

Break in time: 70 - 100 hours
Placement from rear wall: 1' - 3' / 305 - 914 mm
Placement distance apart: 4' - 8' / 1 219 - 2 438 mm
Frequency Response: 42 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
Impedance: 4 ohms minimal
Sensitivity: 87.5 dB/W/m. Maximum sound pressure before dynamic compression
Recommended Power: 30 - 100 W
Crossover frequency: 2.3 kHz, 2nd order
Woofer: 5.5" / 140 mm
Tweeter: 1" / 25 mm aluminum dome, chambered
Dimensions (w x h x d): 6.8 x 14 x 9.1“ / 173 x 355 x 230 mm
Volume: 9 l (internal)
Weight: 5.8 kg (approx. 12 lb)
Recommended stand: TOTEM T4S

We both found this speaker to be a bit colored, but very smooth and responsive, with a pleasing high even at Reference level. More laid back would be the term I believe, without loss of soundstage or spaciousness. We both felt it was a little like a B&W 685 with more extended highs with better decay. Once again, good bass to the point in a small venue no sub would be needed. Just not enough dynamics to suit our preferences. Don apologized for not having the Hawks for us, but explained that the sound would be a happy marriage of the Arro and the Rainmaker. Alas, we still need to find a pair to audition. However, this is a good thing, as we find this to be a fun and enlightening experience to share!
Susan’s take on the day was just like mine. The B&W’s won so far today for what we listened to, not so for what they did great, (because they did nothing great), but for the fact of they did everything good. The others were great in some points but failed in others. Does that make sense? It’s kind of like a win by default.
Now guys, listen up. My Sweetie had a great time today! Why? Because I made sure not to interrupt her and let her ask her own questions. Then, I made sure she always had the sweet spot along with the remote CONTROL. Never was I condescending answering any of her questions in private, and I asked her opinion of everything. Along with that, a fantastic lunch shared, and she got to play with some very expensive equipment, and, Viola!! You have an enthusiastic and understanding partner in your endeavors. Touché!! (The wine at lunch didn’t hurt either!!)
 

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That is a great story! Would that all of us would audition as you 2 have! Keep us posted as to you decisions. Have fun, Dennis
 

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Totem and Vandersteen are probably the smoothest speakers on your list, other like BW will play louder and offer some added punch but they have more sizzle on top and a forward midrange that some find fatigueing. I own VMPS so I have no owner bias towards my recomendation (I do own BW surrounds but again I caution you...cant get much more honest than that.) The Vandersteen is also first order crossover, time and phase accurate with minimum baffle that is pleasing and correct in a way that few other speakers are and if I had to fault them it would be they are not a cosmetic gem of a speaker. The Vandersteen is a music lovers speaker many buy when they get off the upgrade path and just want to enjoy music.
The Totem will throw a nice expansive smooth sound that will fill the room and image very well, and its likely you find them purtier than the Vandersteen but these two are the IMO smoothest on your list.
I also own Innersound Eros Electrostats (same as Martin Logan late model statement speakers before Summit without curved panel) and these speakers are not for everyone, they require much more space, and thought into placement within that space. They also can be brutally revealing on popular material, plus they offer limited dispersion. I liked this type speaker, ran it for 2 years and actually still own it but caution against it without at minimum a lengthy audition that hopefully can be done in home. Some love this type speaker and some not so much, they throw a unique sound that many love and many not so much and its easy to get thrilled at first hear only to discover once the initail thrill is gone its just not for you, this happens with all speakers and not just Electrostat's BUT the M.L. is a very different design and thus it hapens more often.
I grew up and moved to another hybrid design which is VMPS with dynamic woofers and Planar technology for mids and tweets. This speaker gives me the speed I liked in stat's with better dynamics, SPL's and user friendly sweetspot. If your in Ohio you can demo mine in your own home if you wish to see if a hybrid Electrostat is for you, just an offer to demo and nothing more in an effort to be helpful, they are not for sale.
 
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