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This is... The Official $1,000 Speaker Evaluation / Home Audition Event Thread



Introduction and Goals

It is official... we will conduct a speaker evaluation and home audition of various selected speaker lines costing not more than $1,000 per pair. The event will be held on August 23 and 24 (Friday and Saturday) at my home in Luverne, AL.

The goal is to find a pair of speakers for my personal two-channel system, which will be setup within my dedicated home theater room. The speakers for this particular audition will be floorstanding in a non-sheen black color, so that they can be moved out of the way during home theater use and not be a viewing distraction.

There will be a giveaway associated with this evaluation, which will consist of a requirement to vote in the poll included with this thread, along with a comment explaining why you believe I will choose the speakers I choose. The speaker pair I ultimately choose will not be announced until November 1, 2013.

It was difficult to put a limit on the speakers at $1,000 (plus reasonable shipping). For another $100, we could have included several more speakers. For another $200, even more... for another $500 we could have filled the house up and would have never had time to evaluate all of them. Is $1,000 all I want to spend on speakers for a two channel system? Not necessarily, and I may buy other speakers costing more at a later date. At some point in time I hope to evaluate bookshelf/monitor speakers and cap the cost at $1,000/pair. I may also conduct a evaluation with speakers ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 (new or mint), which would be as an upgrade to the speakers I choose in this evaluation. I included used or demo speakers provided they were in mint condition and rated at least 9/10 mechanically and cosmetically... and provided the shipping was not excessive. In most cases I was able to get shipping included, and at maximum I paid $99 for the pair.

While the ultimate goal is to find speakers for my two-channel rig, we want to also give you (the readers) insight on several speaker models within a reasonable budget figure, and show you how we will go about comparing them with one another. We will also be evaluating a couple of integrated tube amps from Jolida and Rogue, a tube preamp from Jolida combined with an Emerald Physics solid state amp, in addition to my current Denon 4520 receiver in Pure Direct mode. We will also be demonstrating custom interconnects and speaker wire from RAM Electronics, as well as testing a power filter/power cable combo from P.I. Audio. So we have quite a lineup of equipment, as well as we hope to have a LOT of fun listening to some really good music. As you can see... Home Theater Shack is not just about home theater, we are about everything to do with audio (and video). Home theater enthusiast enjoy two-channel music listening as well, although I have to admit, I use to care about it less than I do now. The older I get, the more I am finding music that I can really appreciate... as well as opening up to trying various new gear, such as tube amps, which I have never owned. Bottom line... there is a lot going on at this event and we truly hope you will enjoy this speaker evaluation round.

Before we get to the lineup of speakers that will be evaluated and auditioned, let's take a closer look at the equipment that will be used in the system.


Associated Equipment
  • OPPO BDP-105 Universal Player - The BDP-105 will be the primary source, and includes the newer ESS SABRE32 Reference Audiophile DAC's on the outputs. This unit was recently reviewed by Luther Ward (Wardsweb) of HTS: OPPO BDP-105 Universal Player Review.

  • Denon DP-300F Turntable - It is not a fancy turntable with a high dollar cartridge, but it will enable us to listen to some vinyl during the evaluation.

  • Jolida Fusion JD-3502BRC Integrated Tube Amp - A 60 WPC integrated tube amp with 6550 tubes. This is one of Jolida's newest models with several upgrades over their previous models. At the time of posting this thread, Jolida does not have this model up on their site, nor have there been any product reviews. I was able to obtain a really good deal on this unit thanks to Walter (underwoodwally) at Underwood HiFi... a sponsor here at HTS. If you are looking for great deals on some really nice brands of gear, look no further than Underwood HiFi. I don't know of anyone that discounts like they do, especially on the name brands they carry. This is one of the two integrated tube amps we will be using for the evaluation and auditioning.

  • Jolida JD-5T Tube Preamp and Emerald Physics EP 100.2 Solid State Amp - A rock solid combination to mix up the type of preamp/amp system powering the speakers. The Jolida preamp is a well respected remote controlled tube preamp and the Emerald Physics EP 100.2 is a 100 WPC (8Ω) fully balanced Class D solid state amp that is fairly new to the market. Again, thanks to a stellar deal from Underwood HiFi, we have this preamp/power amp system in the lineup for the evaluation.

  • Rogue Cronus Magnum Integrated Tube Amp - A 100 WPC (8Ω) integrated tube amp with KT-120 tubes. This has been a highly regarded and well reviewed integrated tube amp that will be used as the other tube amp in the evaluation/audition. We appreciate Rogue and their willingness to participate in this event.

  • Denon AVR 4520CI Receiver - A 150 WPC (8Ω) AV receiver that is currently used in my home theater giddy-up, powering my MartinLogan speakers. We felt like we needed a pure solid state take on the speakers, so this made the most sense without spending more money on another amp.

  • RAM Electronics Custom XLR and RCA Cables - "RAM-Flex" Stereo Cable with silver plated RCA connectors using Belden 1505F wire and sleeved with ViaBlue braid. We had RAM custom build these for us in 20', 6' and 18" lengths, including a 6' pair terminated with balanced XLR connectors. It seems a lot of readers are not aware that RAM, a sponsor here at HTS, will custom build just about any cable you can think of... just tell them what you want and they will fix you up. Their service is awesome, as is their quality. These are good looking, good quality cables that are very reasonably priced. RAM does not play around... you order up what you want and in a few days it is on your doorsteps. Compare RAM to places like Blue Jeans Cable and you will be saving money.

  • RAM Electronics Custom Speaker Cables - "Ram-Flex Custom Series" 11 AWG Canare 4S11 speaker cable sleeved with ViaBlue braid and terminated with gold plated locking banana plugs. These are also good looking high quality speaker cables that will not break the bank.

  • P.I. audio group uberBUSS Power Filter and MPC/Power Cable - I met Dave Elledge at the Lone Star Audio Fest when he was exhibiting his power filter in the GR Research room (GR Research is a sponsor with a forum here at HTS)... we all ate fried chicken together on Friday night of the show at a very inconspicuous restaurant. That was some of the finest country eating we have had in a while. We agreed to give his system a spin in our evaluation event and look forward to reporting the results.

  • SVSound SB12-NSD Subwoofer - As many of these speakers do not extend into the lower octaves, which I like to hear in my music listening, the SB12-NSD will be available to use as needed and when appropriate during the event. SVS has been a sponsor here at HTS since we started this gig and they have always produced stellar products.

The Listening Room

Many of you reading this will be familiar with Cedar Creek Cinema, our dedicated home theater room that is a converted two car garage. The interior dimensions are 19.5' wide x 23.5' deep x 8.5' high. There is a 6" high x 4' deep stage across the front of the room, and a 12" riser in the back that is used partially as a ported enclosure for the rear subs. Our initial attempt at positioning the two-channel speakers will be based on the Cardas Room Setup & Speaker Placement Guide - Rectangular Room Setup. This means the front edge of the speakers will be approximately 8.75' from the front wall (or screen wall). Cardas calls this the "rear wall", as it is to the rear of the speakers, while I prefer to call it the front wall, as it is in front of me. Petty semantics. The Cardas placement will position the speakers approximately 5.5' from the side walls, which leaves about 8.5' between speakers. It will be difficult for the MLP to be 8.75' from the speakers to form that equilateral triangle, so we'll have to experiment for proper placement in relation to the given listening position, as I do not plan to give up my reclining comfort. The three front recliners are parked right up against the front wall of the riser and would be too difficult to move around.

Here is a layout of the room...



There are some who will inevitably ask why I do not simply enjoy the MartinLogan Prodigy speakers as my primary two-channel listening speakers. They actually sound pretty good where they are, but would sound much better if I could get them out from the wall and moved closer in toward one another... and basically be able to better experiment with the placement. They are currently positioned so that they clear the sides of the rather large 125" projection screen. They sound wonderful for movies, with an enormously wide sound, yet imaging is dead on with two-channel music. Maybe that does not do justice in describing what you may want to hear, but I am very pleased with the sound for movies. These ML's also have spikes and are heavy... meaning these are not the kind of speaker you want to be moving back and forth from movie placement to two-channel placement. Regardless, if I used them, then I would not really need to do this speaker evaluation and I would miss out on all the fun we are going to have... who wants to spoil that? Not me!


The Speakers

I chose these speakers mainly because I wanted to experiment with various speakers that have some type of unique build design or a unique type of driver, versus the traditional column speaker with traditional stacked dome drivers. This is not to insinuate that these particular unique designs are going to necessarily produce the best sound or that traditional stacked dome speakers are inferior. I chose some of them because I have always wanted to hear them and now is as good a time as any. Others I chose because they were recommended by someone here on the forum and it worked out to be able to get them here for the event. As previously eluded to, all of these are floorstanding and black, either new or mint condition used, and can be purchased for $1,000 or less (at the time of this evaluation) plus minimal shipping.

  • Klipsch RF-62 II : The horn speaker that I hear people say that you either love or hate. I did own a pair of Klipsch Forte speakers back in the early 90's, but I have no idea how they sounded. As best I can remember, they sounded pretty good, but that was then and this is now. The RF series is much newer and I have wanted to give them a shot in my home theater room for a long time, just never have. At least I will now get to experience these in a customized two-channel setup.

  • Vandersteen 2Ce : These are just flat out highly regarded among two-channel enthusiast... and they have held their own in many reviews. They are no doubt the oldest of the bunch, but they are in absolute mint condition and look like they are almost new. There are plenty of these available for under $1,000... although the black is harder to find. I was able to score these trade-ins through a dealer on Audiogon.

  • MartinLogan Motion 12 : These were going for super cheap on Newegg at one time, but those deals are no more. Still they are pretty easy to find for under $1,000 shipped. I was able to pick these up from a fellow who use to work for the ML distributor in my area. He still had them in an unopened box. I have heard good things about this new motion line from ML, and being a current ML owner, I am anxious to hear them, although I am not expecting that electrostatic sound that cost quite a bit more.

  • HTD Level THREE : These are speakers I have looked at many times online, but just never had the opportunity to hear them. They look really nice in person and I am told they are along the lines of Klipsch as far as that love/hate relationship. Jim Wilson reviewed the Level TWO System that we recently gave away here at HTS, and he was very well pleased with them, although they are quite different from the Level THREE model.

  • Magnepan MG 12/QR : I have always wanted to hear what the avid Magnepan owners call "Maggies". I am told that the MG 12's may not be enough Maggie for me and to really get a sense of how good Magnepan is, I will probably want to step on up in model class. I was able to get these MINT MG 12's in all black from Alan at Audio Waves in Trinidad, CA., at a really good bargain. He got these in on trade and says they are the cleanest he has ever seen on the used market. They indeed look very nice.

  • Arx A5 : Jim Wilson reviewed the Arx A1b/A2b Speakers a while back and was impressed with these. The A5 is a nice step up and has been highly praised for its unique design. Jon Lane at The Audio Insider was very gracious in allowing the A5's to be a part of this evaluation and we are really looking forward to hearing these.

  • Focal Chorus 716V : At first glance these may look like the traditional dome driver speaker that I stated we were trying to avoid, but a closer look reveals the TNV2 Al/Mg inverted dome tweeter that is indeed a unique design. This is the company that designed and built the $90,000 Grande Utopia BE. Yeah we are a little over $89,000 apart, but let's see what the 716's have to offer.

  • Tekton Model Lore : Okay... so we do have one pair of speakers that somewhat fit the traditional dynamic speaker design, although Eric at Tekton has certainly created a intriguing speaker using a 10" bass guitar driver and the Audax Gold Dome Tweeter, which may seem a little bit like a strange combination. So maybe the Lore's are not your typical run of the mill dynamic speaker after all.

The Evaluation Attendees

Who will be doing the evaluation? Naturally I will have to make up my own mind about what speakers I ultimately select for my own two-channel system. However, that does not mean that we are not going to have more evaluators to help keep me honest. It certainly would not be unusual for someone else to like another pair of speakers of their own choosing and different than what I like. So it is with great pleasure that I welcome AudiocRaver (Wayne), lcaillo (Leonard) and Tonto (Quenton) to my home during the evaluation. Wayne will likely be the primary evaluation write-up guy, but we will all have comments. I also plan to write-up a good bit towards the evaluation as well. So all in all, you definitely will not be short-changed when it comes to reading about the event. Perhaps you are considering a pair of these speakers for your own use... or maybe you are looking into a tube amp. We will no doubt give you the low down on what we hear.


The Evaluation Outline - (Tentative)

Thu PM

  • Setup Prep
Fri AM
  • First impression listen-through all speakers, minimum variables
    • 0.5 hour per set
    • standard position using Cardas guidelines
    • standard toe-in (on-axis for dipoles)
    • standard room treatment
    • no sub
    • one tube amp
    • 80 dB SPL
    • 4 agreed-upon test tracks (each listener's favorite) - listener gets the PLP for his track, sharing allowed
  • First impression listen-through all amps
    • 0.5 hour per amp
    • most "generic" speaker pair, standard position, toe-in, room treatment, no sub
    • 4 agreed-upon test tracks (each listener's favorite) - listener gets the PLP for his track, sharing allowed
    • include 1 solid state amp for comparison
Fri PM through Sat AM
  • Detailed evaluation all speakers
    • 1 to 1.5 hours per set
    • position & toe-in for imaging & soundstage, Cardas guidelines starting point
    • each speaker (L & R), 3 FR plots (6 in apart) with REW at PLP
    • tube amp "A" to start, others as time allows
    • 4 agreed-upon test tracks, plus others as time allows
    • no sub
    • frequent ear breaks out of the room
  • Detailed evaluation all tube amps - Saturday morning first thing when ears are fresh
    • 1 to 1.5 hours
    • 1 speaker pair
Sat PM
  • Final speaker choices
    • with and without subs


The Two-Channel Speaker Evaluation Giveaway Challenge Poll

Here is one of the neat parts about this evaluation... if you can guess which speakers (via this thread's poll) I will choose for my two-channel system, you will qualify for the giveaway.

Qualifications for the giveaway are as follows:
  • You must be registered at the time of this thread posting.
  • You must have at least 25 posts at the time of the evaluation posting and chosen speaker announcement on November 1, 2013. (Members who currently have 25 posts already meet this qualification.)
  • You must vote in the poll within this thread and explain why you voted the way you did in this thread.
Those members who meet these qualifications and vote for the speakers that I ultimately choose will be entered into the giveaway drawing.

So what will you win? $500 CASH! (PayPal Gift or HTS Company Check) This opens up the giveaway for any of our members living on planet earith to enter!

That's the Two-Channel Speaker Evaluation Giveaway Challenge!

NOTE: There will probably be another giveaway that will require voting in this poll, so voting has its advantages. :T


Conclusion

To Be Announced on November 1, 2013


Image Note: We are missing two speakers in the first image until they arrive. There is also a stand-in for the seventh speaker. The image will be updated as soon as the other speakers arrive and can be added.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Announcement Thread Post

The HTS staff will be conducting a $1,000 speaker evaluation and audition on August 23-24.

The Official $1,000 Speaker Evaluation / Home Audition Event



Audio speakers evaluated will be as follows:

Arx A5
Focal Chorus 716V
HTD Level THREE
Klipsch RF-62 II
Magnepan MG12/QR
MartinLogan Motion 12
Tekton Model Lore
Vandersteen 2Ce


There is a poll for voting and there will be a giveaway associated with this event.

More Information!
 
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