Home Theater Forum and Systems banner
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yesterday Ryan, Jon, Gudrun, and myself met to compare Jon's recently finished Modula MTs (a design ny Jon Marsh from htguide.com) to Ryan's Ascend 340 Signatures. Some background that may or may not be informative is that in my comparing of speakers last year, the Ascend 340s bested many commercial brands costing up to twice as much, though in the end I enjoyed Boston VR3s the most and got those. Ryan reached a similar conclusion in regards to comparing the 340s to other speakers - to the point that he uses the 340s as his LCR. Jon had yet to hear the 340s, though he listened to many of the same speakers Ryan and I had as well, and he ended up preferring and going with Totem Forrests. I think it would be safe to say that the one sound quality characteristic all three of us prefer is a little liveliness on the top end.

From seeing the pictures of Jon's Modula MT speakers, I was thinking they were gonna be small and wimpy to be honest. I was expecting the Ascends were going to be the clear winner. I realized I had a bias going in, and truth be told, so did the other two guys - Jon because he built them, and Ryan because he uses Ascends, so I really tried pushing to do the comparing blind and use the discrete Behringer amp as opposed to Pioneer 1015 amplification. Unfortunately Ryan's components are set up in such a way that it would have been a real chore to take them out and do some blind comparisons. Fortunately the differences between the two speakers were quite large.....bias still plays a role though. If we could have done it blind, we could have noticed if there were any trends on specific songs for liking one over the other. Anyway, on to my impressions

Jon's speakers were not small, by no means. I'm even thinking the internal volume of them might be as much as the 340s. We set the speakers up ABAB and ran them as large with no sub for the bulk of the testing. Upon the very initial switching, it was obvious there were large differences. In order of magnitude, in my opinion, the differences were seperation, top end energy, soundstage, and bass/dynamics. In terms of seperation, the Modulas did a much better job in every song. For instance, in many of Ryan's songs played back on the Modula's, the vocals were distinct and seperate from the guitar, drums, and other instruments/sound effects - like they could seperate all the tracks in the music signal and play them discretely. The 340s had a hard time trying to replicate this, it seemed as if the music was one large sum coming at you. It was almost as if in terms of vocals, the Modulas had a much better s/n ratio. In playing around with settings, the 340s improved in this regard when the sub was turned on, but in keeping the sub turned on, the Modulas were still better.

In terms of top end energy, the Ascends were more revealing and the Modulas were more laid back. This is what makes the 340s sound more lively, though I wouldn't call the Modulas dead, just a little flat. On the whole, I like a speaker with a clearer, livelier top end. This seems to have come at a cost though, as the 340s were also thinner while the Modulas were fuller. On a lot of Jon's music, there is background hiss/scratching that is either used for effect or just part of the recording. This ambient hiss came through with the 340s but not really so much with the Modulas. With female voices, it was really a toss up - on some songs I preferred the representation of the 340s because it was higher/clearer and on others I preferred the representation of the Modulas because it was fuller. Basically the Modulas had a better, clearer mid/bottom end section and the Ascends had a better, clearer top end.

In regards to soundstage size, an area that I have always felt the 340s were a little lacking, the Modulas did indeed extend wider. Upon switching, it was like the 340s were limited to their own smaller area. The Modulas had a pretty good size soundstage, but I prefer one even bigger. Had we stopped testing with the 340s and tried optimizing the placement of the Modulas, I'm fairly certain it would have gotten even better (bigger).

Bass/dynamics - in keeping the sub off, but switching the 340s from large to small, it was obvious that the sound quality from the 340s was definitely being degraded when run as large. These speakers, despite what others may say, just can't handle being run full range in my opinion - it was painfully obvious. The Modulas held their own on bass duty better in that there wasn't any real difference in the sound quality when switching from small to large. They seemed to go a bit deeper, but both of these sets of speakers definitely need a sub. As Ryan mentioned, when we listened to a Live song, and they started "rocking out" (loud, not low) the Modulas fell apart. The 340s were able to handle this song better with less distress - the obvious explanation would seem to be two midwoofers vs one.

When all was said and done, on 11 tracks I recall testing with, I preferred the Modulas 7 to 4. On the tracks I preferred the Ascends with, if the Modulas had more drivers and either a tweeter with more clarity or a slight nudge in the top end, I would have sided with the Modulas. I actually really wanted to compare my 340 classics I had in my trunk to Ryan's 340 signatures to see just what the differences were, as I believe the classics sound more laid back with perhaps slighty better seperation, but he shut me down

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I had Jon, Ryan, and Gudrun listen to track 10 (For All Seasons) on the Yanni Live Concert Event dvd (Mandalay Bay, not Acropolis), which is a combination of orchestra with some vocals and a techno beat that has amazing trumpet, hammer dulcimer, flute, pvc percussion, violin, and harp solos in it - a dvd I can't recommend any higher to everybody - and they all just kind of flinched. So I really don't know if you can take any of their impressions seriously. They'll stick with their Live and Grant Lee Buffalo :rolleyes: :laugh:
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
960 Posts
Steve its very good to see your impressions of the DIY speakers, especially since you own store-bought speakers. Would you ever build a pair of Modula MT's or any of John's other designs for your HT some day?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My opinion of DIY speakers has definitely gone up a few notches after yesterday. I would never build Modula MTs, as they don't have enough output capability and the tweeter isn't to my liking, but I would be very interested in comparing something like a Seas based TMWW to my Boston VR3s. Between yesterday's comparison, my own comparison of the 340s vs Bostons, 340s vs Dynaudios, and listening to Jon's Totems, I am convinced a MTM design does things in terms of imaging and soundstage that I just don't like.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
22,577 Posts
Interesting review... thanks. I've toyed around with the idea of getting a set of Ascends... 340's across the front with 200's in the back for about $1100. I have an outlet to get Boston's at a bargain and I've toyed with the VR3's as well. Maybe sometime you can give us a more detailed comparison between those.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
960 Posts
You only heard the rs28a version of the Modula MT's correct? You might like the seas version a little bit more.

Its interesting that you mention problems with dispersion characteristics of MTM's in general. I find that it isn't a problem @ all in my listening room. A fairer comparison would've been Modula MT's vs the Modula MTM's with the same tweeter.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sonnie said:
Maybe sometime you can give us a more detailed comparison between those
Which ones, VR3s vs 340s? I compared them at length last year. To sum it up, I find the VR3s clearer, more dynamic, and they have a much larger soundstage.

Exocer said:
Its interesting that you mention problems with dispersion characteristics of MTM's in general. I find that it isn't a problem @ all in my listening room
Yes, but compared to what? Most quality speakers will sound great on their own, but when compared to others, the differences shine through.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
960 Posts
Compared to 2 other pairs of MT's i've had a chance to own and listen to in this room. NHT SB-2's, and Infinity Primus 150's. I prefered the overall presentation of the MTM's over both. The primus 150's aren't my first choice for comparison in quality speakers, two different leages, as are the NHTs I guess.That being said, I truely consider the NHT's to be quality speakers for what they are capable of. But since we're not making a comparison based on driver similarities between speakers its okay to make the comparison here. The MTM's just haven't proved to do anything "weird" with imaging or soundstage in my room.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Exocer said:
Compared to 2 other pairs of MT's i've had a chance to own and listen to in this room. NHT SB-2's, and Infinity Primus 150's.......The MTM's just haven't proved to do anything "weird" with imaging or soundstage in my room.
Ok, thanks. Let's say, as opposed to the MTMs doing anything "weird", did you find the TMs to have a larger soundstage or better imaging?

Sonnie said:
Yes, did you actually write up a review and do you still have a copy you can post here?
Sure - here's the bulk of it:

....Unfortunately, the Denon was a stereo receiver, and did not have the option of crossing over to a sub, I guess it could only add a sub but the mains would still be full range. I knew I didn't want the 340s to go up against the VR3s in full range because it wasn't a fair comparison, so I came to a pretty good solution. The Denon had tonal controls, so I turned the bass knob from being in the middle to all the way down - essentially, this made the speakers play as small, because no real bass was coming out of either. This may not have been the most scientific way to eliminate the VR3s extension advantage, but it got the job done and made it very fair.

After setting the speakers up again, both in front of all the other speakers and with the order staggered, I was ready to go. After a song or two, it was immediately obvious that the VR3s are a more lively speaker. In comparison to the Bostons, the 340s sound a bit laid back - not colored or boxy like the 40s did, but like the tweeter is afraid to let loose and really convince you that you aren't listening to speakers. It's very hard to explain, but the VR3s have a lighter feel to the highs, and they just emphasize details that the 340s don't - the 340s seem grounded or timid. Whether or not those details are meant to be emphasized is a tough question, because the 340s paint a very neutral picture. The thing is though, when listening to the VR3s, it sounds more real, like the performers are right there in the room. If I had a pencil and paper, I could have taken notes for almost every song about what instruments or sounds were more detailed in the VR3s than in the 340s. One example that sticks out in my head - because it was near the end of the 2 hours I spent there, was with All I Really Want by Alanis Morissette. Near the end of the song, starting at around 4:02 and lasting until about 4:22, she sings some lyrics by herself with no effects applied to her voice, and she is somewhat passionate/angry. If any of you care to check, it starts with her singing, "And all I really want is some comfort, a way to get my hands untied...". Doing switches and comparisons between the 340s and VR3s on this part, it honestly does sound like she is standing right there, in the middle of the speakers, singing live to me with the VR3s. The 340s suffered from what I will now refer to as studio 40 syndrome, where you can tell the music is being reproduced from a speaker. If you only have 340s, and you listen to this, you may ask what the **** is Steve talking about, it sounds real to me - and I'm sure when I play the 340s again tonight in my room with that song, it will sound real to me too. But up against the VR3s, when there is something to compare it to, it does not sound as real.

The next thing that was apparent was that the VR3s did produce a bigger soundstage, not just horizontally, but vertically as well. When I closed my eyes and listened to songs with the 340s, I tried to pick out the sounds that seemed like they were coming from the furthest spots out - when I heard one, I'd point and open my eyes (and if people were there I'd have looked like a fool) only to keep finding myself pointing at the outside edge of the speaker. Doing the same with the VR3s, I'd find myself pointing to the side walls, or to the outside of the the VR3 by at least a foot. That is the kind of effect I really like - like music is coming from all parts of the front of the room, not just from the speakers and everything in between - because like I said earlier, the 340s image very well from outer edge to outer edge.

Lastly, the VR3s just had more power, even at the same volumes (pink noise level matched), and with almost no bass at all. The 340s seemed a little unwilling to emphasize certain sounds more than others. Another thing to add is that when I would listen to a whole song or a full 2 songs with the 340s and then switch to the VR3s, for the first couple seconds I thought man, that sounds a little less full bodied, a little too bright, but after about 10 seconds, it just sounds a lot better. When listening to the VR3s for a full song or two and then switching to the 340s, lol, you just want to switch back to the VR3s because the 340s seem too drab. To add to that, I'd say about the last 15 minutes I was there, I only listened to the VR3s, because they delivered more of what I wanted and I found them more pleasing. I could imagine how some might prefer the 340s, but to me, the VR3s are just more real and more powerful sounding.



Upon reading my own words again, I find what I heard from Ryan's 340 signatures a bit puzzling. I really don't think the classics have nearly as much top end energy as the sigs, as I found the classics ever so slightly laid back. Perhaps around Christmas we can do another test, this time blind, and this time including a comparison of classics vs signatures.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
960 Posts
Steve, I never compared them on a scale of whats better to whats worse. One thing is for sure, the imaging characteristics are very different from one another, as you have already mentioned. It seems that the final decision is more of a subjective preference than anything. Some like MTM's some like MT's some like apples some like oranges etc :T

The blind test between the classics and sigs will be interesting. Can't wait for that to happen. Not because im considering buying a pair, it'll be intersting to see what changes were made to the newer Ascends that qualify as "improvements" over the older Ascends.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
37 Posts
If you have a narrow room, and the speakers are placed very close to the side walls, I could see the MTMs doing better, as there would be less reflection and interaction.

In general, I think MTMs sacrifice off-axis and dispersion for improved accuracy on-axis at the sweet spot. Don't quote me on that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Exocer said:
The blind test between the classics and sigs will be interesting. Can't wait for that to happen. Not because im considering buying a pair, it'll be intersting to see what changes were made to the newer Ascends that qualify as "improvements" over the older Ascends.
I'm thinking the differences will be a little larger than what the common perception is.

My receiver has a zone 2/AB speaker thing. If I get some time between trying to finish up my tv riser and polishing off Zelda for Wii (8th dungeon) :R I may compare the 340s and VR3s again as a refresher.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Alright, I just spent the last hour or so comparing the 340s and VR3s again. It answered many questions for me, but still left me thinking that the difference between the classics and signatures isn't miniscule like some have said it is. It also left me with a kind of uneasy feeling knowing that all those speakers that the 340s beat last year, many of which cost significantly more, must have some serious issues.

The differences, in order of magnitude, were size of soundstage, bass/dynamics, and clarity - differences in seperation were obvious, but after some analyzing, I don't think I would consider seperation a discrete characteristic anymore. I think the difference in seperation comes about because of the differences in size of soundstage, bass/dynamics, and clarity. It's a function of those elements.

The first thing that jumps out again is that the VR3s produce a much larger soundstage. This was always one of my criticisms, and it just continues to get reaffirmed time after time. I've now listened to 340s in five different environments and I'm absolutely convinced the 340s are incapable of producing a large soundstage, no doubt about it. Owners may disagree, and without comparing them to speakers with larger soundstages, the 340s may seem to produce one of decent size. But as soon as you compare them to speakers with larger ones, like the Dynaudios, the Modulas, or the VR3s, it becomes clear that the 340s are limited to a smaller sonic area, both in width and height. This takes away a bit from the realism of the presentation, and contributes to the seperation differences.

Comparing in my home, I didn't attenuate bass like I did in the dealer last year. I let them both run full range, no sub, all natural. I had to adjust 2db between switches. The VR3s had significantly more bass, as was to be expected. I can't really fault the 340s too much for that though, as they aren't really marketed as full range speakers (though some choose to run them that way), they are meant to be crossed to a sub at 80hz. But in talkng about the seperation again, I think this also definitely contributes. Without low bass, the presentation from the 340s seems thinner and smaller - the VR3s on many songs give off a better sense of power and solidness. And again, I think in running the 340s full range, the sound is getting degraded.

Also just like last year, there is a noticable difference in clarity. This is the part that is puzzling to me though. At Ryan's, the signatures had a much more lively top end than the Modulas, almost too much, as there was a background, ambient hiss that was audible in most songs with the 340s, but not with the Modulas. With the classics, I don't think there is any way they have that much energy on the top end, as they again sounded a bit laid back in comparison to the VR3s, but the VR3s didn't have that ambient hiss going on. The difference between the VR3s and classics is almost one of a thin veil being removed, but the difference between the sigs and Modulas was more of brightness issue. The VR3s, with the songs I listened to, made the vocals sound more realistic. Like I said, I'd really like to compare the classics and signatures, and hopefully I'll get to soon.

Now in bringing that back to sepeartion again, I don't want to repeat my impressions from last time exactly again, but the VR3s will emphasize or accentuate certain sounds over others in songs, whereas everything is kinda given the same priority with the 340s. An example is with the Eagles Hotel California, what I believe are moraccas and bongo beats are more discrete on the VR3s.....it's like yeah, I have the vocals, but I also have layers of these other sounds. With the 340s, it's kinda like I'm getting a unified stream of sounds.

This may sound like I'm being hard on the 340s, but I'm honestly not trying to be. There are differences between the two speakers and this is what they were. As mentioned, I now feel uneasy knowing that all those other commercial speakers the 340s beat out have issues that overshadow the ones of the 340s - but at the same time it's all a matter of taste. I'm sure that if I compare the VR3s to speakers that sound better, a list of faults in the VR3s will become obvious. But it's kind of like until you hear something better, those faults don't really reveal themselves too well. I'm wondering if everything of the VR3s was maintained but there were a more solid midrange presence, kinda like what the Modulas were real good at, if I would like that. I don't know if that would cancel out some of the detail and clarity of the top end though. I think a Seas tweeter, RS150 mid, and some quality woofer 3 ways would be a good match for the VR3s.

Anyway, this little exercise goes to show yet again that you really do need to compare different speakers to see which ones you like best.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
37 Posts
There are differences between the two speakers and this is what they were. As mentioned, I now feel uneasy knowing that all those other commercial speakers the 340s beat out have issues that overshadow the ones of the 340s - but at the same time it's all a matter of taste. I'm sure that if I compare the VR3s to speakers that sound better, a list of faults in the VR3s will become obvious. But it's kind of like until you hear something better, those faults don't really reveal themselves too well.
Crazy huh!

But it is so true. Heard on their own at the store, the Paradigm Studio 40s sounded good to me. But, bringing them home and putting them next the Ascend 340SE made them sound very very bad. And, the Ascends sounded like the best thing going, bar none. It wasn't until Chris brought his MTMs over that I heard something better, and they weren't a huge differance - to me. But then Jon's MT, were very differnt.

That is why when I went to audition speakers, I tried to listen mostly to stuff in my price range, but I did do a little listen to stuff WAY above, just so that I would get a feel for what to listen for. Until you hear better sound, you don't even know what your missing and that is often mistaken for the misbelief that nothing is missing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Somebody got to hear the Arvos this weekend. I'm waiting to hear about his impressions tonight. While listening for oneself is always the best option, seeing that you, Jon, and myself picked up on essentially the same differences in our testing, it kinda makes it nice knowing I can "compare notes" in the future since we all probably won't get to listen to the same speakers. We may each have our own preferences, but we were able to pick up on the same things. So now I can hypothetically know about 3x more speakers :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
237 Posts
I used to be really big on soundstage. I heard lots of speakers that created a great soundstage. But over time, I found it to be extremely artificial. Also, many speakers that had incredible soundstage just didn't seem to have the dynamics I was after. That's why when I built my current speakers I went with an MTMWW design. Most of the music I listen to has pretty big dynamics, especially my wife's classical CD's.

Steve, I think if you can find someone in your area with a pair of the Dennis Murphy TMWW design it would be interesting to see how they sound to you compared to the Bostons. They use the 27TDFC, RS150, and dual RS225's (8" woofers). I know they've been compared to PSB Stratus Gold's and did quite well.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,398 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Also, many speakers that had incredible soundstage just didn't seem to have the dynamics I was after
Hmm, I'm not seeing the connection there. Do you mean to say that bookshelves usually gave you the biggest soundstage? Dynamics is going to be a function of output capability and power on tap, no?

Steve, I think if you can find someone in your area with a pair of the Dennis Murphy TMWW design it would be interesting to see how they sound to you compared to the Bostons.
Yeah, those are the ones I want to hear.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
237 Posts
Well, most of the speakers I've heard that excelled at soundstage, imaging, or any other of the audiophile buzzwords were mostly TM monitors or small towers, or TMWW towers with low order filters and small mids/woofers. They all sounded wonderful until you turned up the volume.

For the last 10 years everywhere I've lived had large family rooms with a very open floorplan. So pretty much anything short of a large tower just didn't do much for me. The smallest speaker that I felt was adequate from a dynamics standpoint was the old ACI Jaguar, which used a Scan Speak tweeter and 7" woofer in a large ported enclosure. Other than that, in a large room the only speakers that satisfied me were something along the lines of the PSB Stratus Gold's or the Paradigm Studio 100's. I'm just happy my wife quit complaining about the size of my towers. Funny how popping in her Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack made her finally "get it"! :)
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top