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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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Discussion Starter #82
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.
I did. I listened to the Salk SongTowers, and Ascend Sierra's this weekend. :bigsmile:
Still want to hear the Rockets, but haven't looked for an audition yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #83 (Edited)
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 !!!!!!!
 

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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. :D 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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Discussion Starter #85
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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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #91
Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Round 11

Earlier this past week I went down to visit a good friend of mine in San Diego, and along the way I had to make two stops. The first one was at the Stone Brewery, makers of some of the finest beer in the country. I bought a t-shirt and a couple of big bottles of their “Old Guardian” barley wine to enjoy later on with my friend. The second stop was at the Acoustic Zen headquarters. I had been hearing good things about their Adagio speakers, and had a couple of people recommend them to me. I tried contacting my nearest dealer several times by phone and never got an answer or a call back, so I contacted Acoustic Zen directly. I wound up speaking and meeting with Robert Lee himself, and he turned out to be a great guy. Very helpful, and very proud of his speakers, and rightfully so:

Acoustic Zen Adagio: (msrp≈$4300)


Robert played through a few demo tracks before he let me pop in my music. Not a problem for me as I was busy looking around at all the empty shells that would become Adagio’s and Adagio Jr.’s once they were wired up and had their drivers installed. All of the finishes were beautiful. My two favorites were the “walnut burl”, and “golden burl.” The pictures on their web site give you a pretty good idea of the finish. They are a fairly large speaker, compared to the ones I have been listening to, about the same width as the Aerial 7B but standing a bit taller. I should also add that I listened to these speakers in a sectioned off space of the warehouse, so there was a ceiling about 20 ft up and only a fabric covered divider for the left wall, and wide open in back. Not an ideal listening room, but enough to get the gist of their sound, and range. On with the really important stuff...

Playing Grant Green, I first noticed their imaging was very nice. The acoustic bass sounded full and tight, not accentuated or pushed forward but accurate. These speakers typify what I keep getting out of the Transmission Line cabinets, especially with acoustic bass. Full, resonant, hollow bodied sound, just like the real deal. I felt that the tone of the guitar was excellent, maybe a bit forward on the higher notes. These speakers sport a unique (to me at least) circular ribbon tweeter, and they excel at reproducing cymbals. Crisp, clear, and real sounding. Snare drum also sounds very good on the Adagio’s. Piano resonates nicely and has a percussive quality to it. As with a few other speakers, these reveal the tape hiss from the original analog recording, it is not annoying or anything, just present. Saxophones are reedy and smooth, you can feel the low notes of the sax. Lots of detail with these speakers. When the vibes come in they sound realistic and have a nice tone.

The highs are crisp, tight and clear with Fela Kuti. Once again these speakers prove outstanding with cymbal work. The bass has some impact here, I would imagine that it would be more in a better room. Brass is handled nicely, doesn’t come across harsh except when three horns are blaring at the same time at loud volume (I know from experience that this would most likely be a harsh sound in real life, too). Double kick drum beats are separate and distinct. I noticed, for the first time, the sound of one of those gourd and wooden bead shaker-things (not sure what they are actually called). Trumpet sounded natural during the solo, nice tone.

Erykah Badu’s deep bass was nearly all there, the Adagios seemed to only miss the absolute lowest note. Rim shots were definitely wood on metal real but I thought they were a little too forward. Her vocal was nice, smooth, separate, and distinct. Bass remained tight to the bottom of it’s range, no flab here. Again I noticed the amount of detail these speakers reveal.

With the Beatles “Come Together” drums stand out with distinct clarity, and cymbal work is top notch. Surprisingly I feel like the bass is subdued on this song. It is still tight but it just doesn’t blanket like it should. I think this is a direct result of the lousy room acoustics and ultra high ceiling. Fingers have audible slides on guitar and bass strings. Vocals sound great, and guitars sound excellent. Overall there is a good balance to the sound of this song. “The End” sounds good on the Adagios, nice imaging, and great drums. However, the vocal sounds a little edgy and guitars sound a little loud. Could be my ears are beginning to feel some fatigue? listening levels were a bit louder than usual for me, so this may very well be the case.

Next I tried Fu Manchu and they sounded good and MEAN! Very nice aggression on the guitars, vocals were slightly back in the mix as they are meant to be. It is easy to separate the bass and guitar sounds. The Adagio’s did very well with heavy rock.

The last song I brought for this audition was “The Girl From Ipanema.” I got the chills from this song on the SongTowers, so I wanted to see if the Adagios could duplicate that mark of midrange magic. The male vocal at the beginning of the song was excellent, as was Astrud’s. Guitar and cymbals were tight and detailed. The saxophone of Stan Getz was nice here, but ultimately failed to give me the chills. In all fairness Astruds vocal did make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but it didn’t quite have the sweetness of the Salks.

After I ran through my tracks, Robert played a couple more that really showed off the strengths of the Adagios. One of them was a drum track that was simply awesome; very fast, tight, and realistic response on drums. I think reproduction of drums and percussion are the single most impressive achievement of this speaker. Another track he played was an electronic piece that illustrated the range of the speakers very nicely. And finally a very clean recording of acoustic bass that sounded very real indeed, probably what this speaker does second best would be acoustic bass.

These were certainly some fantastic sounding speakers, and I don’t think that anyone would accuse them of being too warm. I don’t think they would be considered cold and overly analytical either. They are a revealing speaker, and capable of playing very loud. I found the circular ribbons (made by Acoustic Zen) to be smoother than the linear ones that I have heard. The “under hung” mid woofers were fun to watch when they really get moving, reproducing drum sounds and acoustic bass among the best that I have heard. Electric bass, however, seemed to be missing some of the fullness that would most likely improve in a better room. Over all, I would say that these are a technically excellent speaker, that for some reason I did not quite connect with. Could be for lots of reasons: 2 hr drive before listening, so many other speakers rolling around in my head, not a very good listening room, high expectations... If you are in the market for speakers in this price range I would highly recommend that you audition the Adagios, you may just want to take some home with you. I know that I would like a second listen...
 

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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

It just maybe that the speakers you're going to great lengths to find don't exist in your current price range. They certainly didn't exist in your original price range.

It might turn out that you won't hear what you're looking for until you get to $10K/ea or more.:scratch:
 

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Discussion Starter #93
Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

It just maybe that the speakers you're going to great lengths to find don't exist in your current price range. They certainly didn't exist in your original price range.

It might turn out that you won't hear what you're looking for until you get to $10K/ea or more.:scratch:
That is a scary thought, though most likely true.... :foottap:
 

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Discussion Starter #94
Additional information about the T+A Criterion TS-300:

I have been searching the web for any information about these excellent sounding speakers 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 !!!!!!! At that price these speakers would be a bargain. So knowing what I know now I am half tempted to see if I can get them for that price. If I were more confrontational, I would insist on it, but me being me I will probably just leave it alone and post this so everyone else is aware of things to watch out for.
 

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Discussion Starter #95
Re: Speaker quest (Final Round?)

Round 12
(second listens and a couple new ones)

I will be using some new music, a lot of it, and a couple of tracks that I have been using already that have proven extremely beneficial to my evaluations. I may not listen to all of them on each speaker (24 tracks total) but they cover a pretty wide musical spectrum and recording quality varies almost as much. For the most part the music I picked is on the upbeat side. Makes the process more positive for me and I think that this music is most likely to reveal flaws in a speakers overall performance.

I am going to stick with the order I listened during auditions, starting off with a couple of seconds...

Paradigm Studio 100

I still like the bass of this speaker, it reaches pretty deep and has nice impact. With the percussive slap style bass you can hear the strings rattling on the neck of the upright with ease. My second listen had a few bright moments where some tracks were rendered thin, or jangley. A couple of songs that usually have a huge expansive atmospheric quality to them sounded a bit narrow on the 100’s, but other recordings had very nice imaging. My original assessment of this speaker still stands with me... more suited to home theater and movies than to music.

Dynaudio Focus 220

Right off I felt more relaxed with this speaker than the studio 100. All the edginess was gone, more of a relaxing listen. Trumpet peaks were more smooth, mid bass was not as punchy, much more of a smooth even sound. Maybe too smooth, though. I missed the sharp highs, but liked the even mids of the Focus 220’s. I still found the low bass to be a little indistinct, not really bad or anything, just a little too slow when pushed to it’s lower limits with music like Beenie Man (dancehall Reggae). They did much better with jazz, rock, and blues. This is still a good all-arounder, but a little expensive for it’s performance if you ask me.

Those two speakers pretty much bookend the sound I am looking for, but neither one is right for me. I asked the salesman if he had anything that was in the same price range and had a sound kind of in between those two. He smiled and directed me to...

Focal Chorus 836-V: (≈$3000)


Trumpets sounded nice here, a little more edge than the Focus 220’s, and not as much as the Studio 100’s. Strings rattled properly against the neck of the acoustic bass when slapped around. Overall sound was clear, and well defined, with a nice balance. A couple of songs in I wonder how high these go, because to me, they sound like they are rolled off at the top with cymbal rides, coming across not quite real. Vocals sounded good, electric bass had a full blanketing sound, not overly punchy but had some impact. Fu Manchu sounded really good on these speakers, guitars were thick and mean. The male vocals of Bill Withers sounded natural. Erykah Badu sounded good on the Focal’s, so did the J.B.’s. Bass tightness was better than the Focus 220’s, depth seemed about the same. They did a very nice job picking up the overtones of electric bass. The tone of Wes Montgomery’s guitar was good but not great. One of the new tracks I brought along was “like a rolling stone” by Jimi Hendrix from the “Jimi plays Monterey” CD. Not a the best recording, but it sounded really bad on these speakers. A couple of songs that I included just to see if i would get the chills, came close on one but not the others. For some reason the Focal 836-V seemed to handle male vocals better than female. They really did peg the “in between” sound (Focus 220 & Studio 100) that I asked for and I liked the overall sound here. Aesthetically, I didn’t care for the “chevron” shaped grills, or the French glitzy feel I got from these speakers. I like the looks of Focals higher-end Electra line much, much better...

Of the three, I actually liked the overall sound of the Focals the best (for music), and the understated look of the Dynaudio's. But, I don’t think any of these three will find a place in my home. If I had a dedicated HT setup, I would seriously be considering the Studio 100’s.

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That was Monday. On Tuesday, as you may already know I had an appointment for some more seconds.....

Usher Be-718 “Tiny Dancer”

First off I really like the way that brass sounds with the Be tweeter, crisp and clear but not edgy or piercing. Cymbal work also comes across nicely. I notice that acoustic bass seems to miss the lowest notes, today, I did not notice this before. If they are present, they are several dB’s lower than they should be. This wouldn’t be any problem whatsoever, if these were used in conjunction with a sub. Listening to “Come Together” I really miss the fullness of the larger floor standers, but feel that they do a good job overall. I got the same feeling of missing the fullness with Fu Manchu. “Ain’t No Sunshine,” by Bill Withers sounded excellent on the Ushers, vocals were full and rich and a big open space was created for the sound-stage. What ever these things lack in depth they make up for in speed, they did a good job separating the bass and kick drum beats, even when they were close together. Somehow the mids started to sound a little on the lean side as I listened to more music on the “Tiny Dancers.” Imaging was good with most music though not great. After hearing the higher-end speakers these are not as impressive as the first listen, though I still think they are quite good for their size. In case anybody wonders, I like them more than the Ascend Sierra’s but I think that the Sierra’s would be a better value.


Era D-14

I wanted to give these a fair shake, because the last time I had listened was right after the Dali Icon’s and I had the impression that their highs were lacking. This time I thought they actually sounded pretty nice. And speaking of pretty, they are very easy on the eyes, high WAF with the Era’s. Very evenly balanced presentation here, everything sounded good across the board. Forgiving, laid-back speaker. Imaging was pretty mediocre, sound was easy to locate as coming out of the speakers. Nothing made me say wow, and nothing sounded really bad. This could be a good, or bad thing depending on your perspective, I want something a bit more dynamic than the Era D-14.

Totem Hawk

This is a hard one to write for a lot of reasons. One, because I still really like this speaker. Two, because I have heard better ones. Three because it does so much really well, and I have found a weakness. The Totem Hawk really delivers a big musical sound out of a small very handsome looking cabinet. I have heard that many people feel that Totem has a bright sound to their speakers and until I listened to them a third time I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about. The Hawks are fairly inefficient speakers, and the low end suffers most if they are not driven with adequate power. The first time I heard them was with 200 watts behind them, the second and third were with 75 watts (if I remember correctly). I still would not consider the Hawk to be a “bright” speaker, though after my last listen I would say that they are indeed voiced with an accent on the high end. The Thiels come to mind as “bright”, The Hawks are detailed and accurate with almost everything I threw at them. Imaging is some of the best at this price. Cymbals, snare drums and pianos sound very real on the Hawks. Vocals also sound very good. Both Erykah Badu and Fu Manchu sound excellent. Guitar tone is right on, and so is the sound of the brass instruments. Bass is fast and tight, though not as full bodied as the more expensive speakers I have heard. One of the new tracks I listened to was “Even After All” by Finley Quaye, it is really a beautiful song and I included it as a song that might give me the chills but it proved to have an additional value. The bass is pretty deep and very full; the Hawks were doing fine, in this department, with every song before this one. I noticed a little bit of distortion while there was a sustained bass note, and then a kick drum beat in the song. Walking up close you could almost see the driver wanting to suck back in but immediately kicking back out to cover the kick drum, producing a distorted “ugthmp” rather than a clean “thump.” It was subtle and only on this song. Overall I still think this is a great speaker, and if I have to compromise on price this may be a good one to settle on. My main concern with the Hawk is that I know I would want to upgrade in a couple of years or sooner. They offered to lend me the pair for an in home audition and i may have to take them up on that. Between the SongTowers and the Hawks, it is a very tough call for me. They both have their strengths and they both have weaknesses.



Dali Helicon 300: (msrp≈$3000)


A couple of people have suggested that I listen to something in the Dali Helicon line and the shop I was at had a pair of of 300’s that had been knocked over by a customer and then repaired. The 400, which I am more interested in, was not in stock, and the dealer told me that these were an older model that has since been updated. Neither of us were sure what the revision included. The Helicon 300’s that I listened to were a similar size to the Usher Be-718’s, and PSB Synchrony’s that had I listened to before. Kind of largish for a “bookshelf” speaker, I guess this size is more commonly referred to as “stand mount.” The cabinets and finish on these Dali’s was top notch; very, very nice looking.
I started with “the Girl From Ipanema” and thought that the male vocal had nice resonance, and instrumentation was crisp, clear and natural sounding. Once again the ribbon tweeters provided ultra clear and crisp cymbal reproduction, but this time without any harshness. So far only the ribbons have provided a truly accurate sound on cymbals. Wes Montgomery’s guitar tone was spot-on. Excellent separation of sound and nice balance. Bongo drums on “Sunny” sounded like hands slapping the skins. This music was very easy to listen to on the Dali’s. Finley Quaye’s “even after all” sounded good here, the guitar tone was exceptional (again), and the bass seemed to reach fairly deep (at least as deep as the Ushers) though was lacking a little fullness (like the Ushers). This lack of fullness seems to be the major difference between the stand-mount and floor standers, they reach almost as deep but lack the body of the floor standers. Miles Davis’ trumpet sounded real, on “All of You,” so did the sax but that did get a little piercing on some of the runs. Slap-style, upright bass string percussive effects sounded good with Medeski, Martin and Wood. The actual bass notes sounded recessed though. With John Lee Hooker everything sounded good, standouts being guitar tone and cymbals, but overall nice balance to the sound. When I played “Come Together” I again missed the fullness of bass and the low end of it, though upper to mid-bass section sounded very good, providing the blanketing feeling that I look for. Guitars sounded really good again, and vocals seemed to be slightly back in the mix like they should be with this song. Fu Manchu sounded good but the high guitar notes were a little piercing. On “ain’t no sunshine”, Bill Withers, when the strings come in they sound excellent, and his vocal sounds quite good here too. Erykah Badu sounds good, except the missing ultra-low notes. Everything else sounded pretty good on these speakers, the Pretenders had a nice little sparkle to their sound, and they did a good job with atmospherics when fed electronic music.
I liked this speaker, though I still want deeper bass from my fronts. I don’t know if I am just getting used to the ribbon tweeter sound or if the Helicons do a better job implementing it, but they sounded really nice to me. I have come to the realization that if you want truly accurate cymbal reproduction, ribbons are the only way to go, they get the sizzle that everything else seems to fall just short of, soft domes being the worst at this singular aspect of sound. This does come at a price though, as every single ribbon I have heard has had at least one harsh or piercing moment with either brass, or with high electric guitar notes. These Dali’s are no exception, though they really are fantastic speakers. Now I really want to hear the 400... or even the 800!


Salk Veracity HT3(starting at $4499)

not the actual ones I heard today but I love this veneer :T

As a result of my correspondence with Jim Salk regarding his SongTowers, and our resultant conversation, he suggested that I give a listen to a pair of HT3’s, and helped me set up an audition. He said flat out that he didn’t want me to buy a pair, because they were well out of my price range, and then added that the HT3 was the speaker that he had developed for himself. He also thought that the HT3 was exactly what I was looking for, and that listening to it would provide a good baseline for my ongoing search... Well Jim, you were right, the HT3’s are pretty much exactly what I am looking for.

So, today I went over to another Salk customer’s house armed with a CD containing a revised edition of the last one I used. I cut back a few songs that I felt were sonically redundant to some of the other material, and brought back “rim shot” because I just had to hear how well the HT3’s would handle it’s depth. I thought it was kind of funny when after I had run through all the tracks, Gary (the owner), asked me “What was track 9 ?! The bass in that one went really low.” Gary had his HT3’s set up with a new Yamaha HT receiver (don’t know the model) that put out 140 watts/channel. Though he had a sub hooked up we did not use it, he said it only got used for movies and that it was too slow to keep up with the HT3’s... :)

I started with Mile Davis and noted that the tone of his trumpet was very nice, acoustic bass sounded good and the saxophone was right on. Cymbals sounded crisp and clean... sounds familiar right? Well a few minutes into this selection I realized how engaging these speakers were. They have a really nice, balanced sound. Piano has the percussive quality that some speakers don’t get right, brushed snare drum sounds great and is distinct, and clear. Nothing is coming forward, everything is staying in it’s place! Wes Montgomery proved to be a very pleasurable listen on the HT3’s. Since nothing came forward on the last track, I didn’t expect anything to come forward on this one either, but something did... The subtleties. The tone on the guitar was excellent, classic Wes. Kick drum had a nice little punch to it in this song, and cymbals again were sounding really nice. The bongos had the distinct sound of thick hands slapping a skin stretched over a drum, very realistic sound. Next up was Stan Getz, “Girl From Ipanema.” The male vocal at the beginning is smooth and natural sounding, and I notice that the bass is nice and full. When Astrud starts to sing the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I get a little chill flash, her vocal is velvety smooth and inviting (I wrote “soooo, nice”) All the subtleties and nuances of this song are right there, and the imaging is starting to impress me. Then the saxophone comes in and... nice job Jim! The reason this song came to be on my speaker test disk is because the SongTowers gave me a little chill when that sax came in, the HT3’s gave me the whole body version! One or two other speakers have made the hair stand up on the back of my neck but this was full blown chills. :) As I sat there basking in the warmth of the rest of this song I managed to note how nice the resonance and sustain was on the piano. Medeski, Martin and Wood were next with some more upbeat contemporary Jazz. The percussive slap bass sounded very good here, as did the Hammond organ. The most significant thing I noticed during this track was the depth that was here, and I hadn’t noticed on any of the other speakers I played this song on last time out. Also deserving of mention was the sound of the light clicks of the drumsticks as they hit the edge of the snare, not a full on rim shot, but a more subtle rhythmic accent to the beat.

The fifth song was “Come Together,” and it came together very well indeed. (sorry ‘bout the pun, I couldn’t resist). I hadn’t heard this song sound this clean before. The sound was full and deliberate. Bass sounded truly great on the HT3’s. Vocal was dead center, drums heavily dampened, cymbals smooth yet crisp. Man, I wanted to crank this up loud to get the full impact of the music, but I didn’t want to impose too much. (Volume level was about where I would normally listen if I were just sitting there reading and listening to music, no where near the volume I would hit if I were left alone to really rock the house. Not a problem at all because these speakers have plenty to offer even at low volume levels. You could still have a conversation at the levels I was listening. I think about a notch or two louder than Gary usually listens, though. Unless his wife was not home because he did tell me that he liked older Metalilca...) Fu Manchu was next up and WOW- I got the chills from the FU !!!! Never thought that would happen... The guitars are Mean and crunchy, and the soaring high notes don’t ever get harsh or glaring, the bass is thick and fuzzed-out-full. Everything is distinct. Fu Manchu has not sounded better than right here. I added PJ Harvey “A Place Called Home,” onto my audition CD because of it’s nice full sound, and was glad that I did. This track is a very sonically dense song that tends to blend together on the speakers in my truck, but not here, she sounded very clear and natural. Everything was easy to distinguish, you could sit there and dissect all the layers and instruments. PJ sounded really good on the Salks, which showed exceptional clarity and balance. The HT3’s ROCK!

Into the R&B section of my CD with “Ain't no Sunshine” and Bill Withers vocal is sounding very, very good. His vocal has a little bit of echo on it which has the effect of making the room feel much bigger than it is, opening up a huge soundstage. The strings come in sounding very nice as well, and kick drums also sound good. At this point I thought to myself, “these are going to be very hard to beat.” Erykah Badu’s “Rimshot” came on and I got the chills again!!! (They should give you a blanket if you buy these speakers, because you will need it) The HT3’s dig deep, very deep. You can hear every note but the absolute bottom, and that one you can feel. The lowest of the other speakers I’ve heard missed the bottom one or two notes on this song, these guys missed the bottom 1/2 note. The lowest of the low in this song is unnaturally low and you can tell it’s there, even if you cannot exactly hear it. (It’s got to be down around 20 Hz, but that is totally just a guess) Rim shots sounded great, but truth be told I wasn’t paying much attention to them I was too busy wiping the drool of my chin from the bass response to this song. “Apple tree” started up and I regained a little composure (Yes, I am exaggerating a bit but the depth and control of the bass is impressive) to note that her vocal was full and lush in every sense of those words. Again I noted that the bass was outstanding; clear and tight. I included “the Grunt” by the J.B.’s to listen how they handle a lot of brass at once, and they performed admirably. This recording is not great, as with much of James Brown’s work, but I can hear details like a faint echo on the horns (either from the room, or an effect added to the recording) that I had not noticed before. Brass sounds really good here. There is a (usually) shrill note at the very beginning of this song, and again in the middle, that was not shrill on the HT3’s, it was in tune, and not shrill.

Finley Quaye “even after all” gave the Hawks a moment of distortion in the bass, and you can hear the challenging part, but not the flop. This song is just one of those beautiful melodies that makes you feel a little sad and good all at the same time, and all that emotion comes through on the Salks. Full, rich, smooth, clear.... sublime. A couple hits on the triangle ring through clean and clear. When the guitar came in I got the chills AGAIN (this is ridiculous, I want them) the tone is absolutely amazing. I ended with a little electronic music and an expansive atmosphere opened up in front and all around me. DJ Krush’s manufactured universe runs deep. Detailed highs, full, deep bass, pure sweet mids... these speakers leave very little room to want more.
:yay: :jump: :spend: :T :T :T
 

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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

Yes, "really tight, deep bass" seems to be where most speakers fall short, and what I want, along with the lush full mids, and the clear accurate highs. I am starting to think that I may have no choice but to go sub/sat.
First let me say that I've enjoyed reading about your experiences. Second, from the quote above, I'd suggest you listen to RBH 1266-SE (~$3000) or 1044-SE (~$2100). Sounds like either would (maybe) fit the bill, with the 1266 being slightly forward of neutral and the 1044 being slightly laid back,...'course I think they are both pretty neutral but that is the best way I could describe their differences. They are also a bit out of your $1500 - $2000 price range, but thats the nature of the game :bigsmile:

The biggest bass impression I get from the 1266 is,... bass does not disappear at low volumes.
 

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hey please can u tell if dali Ikon with Dali 6, Dali 2, Dali Vocal 2, Dali sub.... makes a perfect Package or shall i buy something else in the same budget
 

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Just a great review/summary.

For purely selfish reasons, I hope you never find "the one".

JCD
 

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Re: $1500-$2000 Fronts

So far:
Axioms are on my not-so-short list,
along with Paradigm Studio series,
B&W 683's & CM7's,
Def-Tech mythos,
Totem,
Onix rpcket RS850,
Revel F-12,
Monitor Audio Silver RS-6/8,
and the SVS MTS-01...
I Havent heard much speakers, but you should really stay away from B&W speakers under the 800 series..
I've heard the 683/684 in many occasion's and was always suprised of their mediocrity.

I've heard many of the new Klipsch models, which are the best speakers for HT i believe but i think they really lack mid range for stereo, and thier imaging is really bloated, and listening to them feels like the imaging disappears into the horizons, instead of being focused in-front of your head like the Dali Suite 2.8.

Anyway i would reccomend you to try to listen to Dali Suite 2.8, should be about 1000$ pair, i havent heard any speaker under 3,000 which comes close to it.
 

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I also noticed that you listened to Dali Ikon 6,
they are ok speakers, but really dont compare to the Suite (which priced the same)
I would rather compare the Suite's with Helicon 400 then the Ikon
 
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