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non conformist
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My take on high end

Hi all,

I remember the time I got my first proper hifi system bout 4 yrs ago. It consisted of a Cambridge Audio 640C / 640A combo married to Mordaunt Short Declaration 914's. I remember how much better it was than my Pioneer car audio system, or my computer speakers and boom boxes. I loved it to bits, but always knew it wasnt quite high end. Moreover, it never really filled my room properly and I knew it was dynamically lacking something. I was fortunate enough to listen to a few high end systems that are still etched in my memory at my friends places:

Krell SACD Standard, 280 pre and 2250 power, Martin Logan Summits - Amazing imaging, presence, bit dry though

Pass Labs amps, Sonus Faber Stradivaris - This thing literally hung sonic images in space, and had dynamics when called for. Very sweet

High end Tannoy active setup in my friends studio - What immediacy, very direct, very quick

Anyways, I was originally planning to get myself a Benchmark DAC married to a Krell KAV 400xi married to Revel F12's. But then I browsed around a lot and was quite fascinated with active studio monitors. I came across a particular speaker known as the M Audio Ex66. Initially I was very impressed by the specs, and the cost:

36htz to 21khz response
115 db max output
Built in DAC's
Built in analogue volume controls
Lots of connectivity (SPDIF, AES, Balanced, TRS)
Room tuning features

I also came across a really good review on Sound on Sound and decided to take a chance. When I first got it home, I was horribly shocked. It got loud, real loud but I found it stark, cold and jarring with my music. I did a couple of minor adjustments according to my room (toned down treble 2db, toned up midrange 2db and set the bass down to half space as it was placed close to a wall. The speakers started to sing after 3 hrs, here's what I found vs. my old setup:

Treble: Incredibly detailed and dynamic, pleasant but never sweet
Midrange: Very present and alive
Bass: Quick and extremely deep. Much deeper than what I was getting before, the type you can feel more than hear
Imaging: Superb imaging that could easily exceed the speaker boundaries with seemingly limitless depth. Superb instrument separation
Dynamics: realistic dynamics, enough to make you jump off your seat when the recording called for it

In my subjective opinion, the imaging reminded me of the Krell / Martin Logan setup at my friends place. The bass speed was something I was not used to. The detail levels are incredible, I could hear every breath, every pluck of the string with incredible clarity. Anything with a semblance of a rhythm would get my toes tapping

My listening room is quite big, it measures 5m x 8m x 3m ceiling and it comfortably fills it up. What I love most about my system is its ability at low volume levels. Music is still alive and dynamic, it does not lose its vitality.

Just wanted to share my experiences...

Elk
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Re: My take on high end

Active monitors can sound very good and often represent excellent yucks/buck.

dcstep
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Re: My take on high end

Welcome non. That looks like a great hell of a deal. Lots of people love powered monitors. Most that I've listened to over any time period were hard and tiring for me, but your ears may really like that sound.

Dave

mrlowry
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Re: My take on high end

Paradigm made some killer actives in their Reference line 6 years ago. They were great but never sold. Paradigm gave it the old college try for a couple of years but eventually they threw in the towel.

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end

Hi Dave,

I agree that active monitors are not for everybody, some could find them tiring as they are not meant for an easy listen. I really like the directness, music penetrates you. Music sounds alive, probably better for rock and modern music genres than classical though

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end

hi audioexplorer, I wonder what went wrong with the paradigm actives

Buddha
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Re: My take on high end


Quote:
hi audioexplorer, I wonder what went wrong with the paradigm actives

My guess is that audiophiles like seperate components, as a rule.

Active speakers kind of take the amp shopping and individual autonomy over this pairing away from the audiophile. Hence, a general lack of popularity for this type of speaker.

Curiously, we're seeing active amplification become more and more accepted in woofer set-ups, either in solo subwoofers, or audiophiles allowing an internal amp for the woofers of a multi-way speaker, just so long as our own amps get to drive the mid and/or tweeter.

Plus, keeping the amps sepeerate from the speakers allows us to more easily change things - which is one of the things audiophiles dearly love to do!

As a side note, did you audition other speakers like the Mackie, JBL, or other active lines?

mrlowry
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Re: My take on high end

The Paradigm Actives were killer sounding, but alas too different from what the accepted practice of the times were. As Buddha says audiophiles have fun mixing and matching (sometimes creating real monstrosities sometimes systems that "sing") and actives certainly reduce the number of variables, for better or worse.

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end

Hi Buddha, I agree that thats the probably reason active monitors havent caught on all that much amongst audiophiles.

I had the pleasure of auditioning Tannoy Reveal 8D's and Mackie monitors. I found the Tannoys way too punishing on sub optimal recordings, Mackie I genuinely liked but I felt the M Audios were better spec'd.

Elk
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Re: My take on high end

Active monitors vary greatly in quality and execution, like everything else.

Do get truly excellent sound you need to spend some serious money, just as you do with separates.

In the $1k a pair range I like the Adam A7. It is a trickle down design from Adam's excellent studio monitors with a wonderfully extended sweet ribbon tweeter. The trade off is that they only go down to ~45Hz. As they have a gain control one could connect a CDP directly to them and have a small inexpensive system that any music lover would enjoy.

mrlowry
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Re: My take on high end

I've heard good things about ATC's powered monitors and I know that they are trying to make the transition from the pro to high-end consumer market. From my understanding they are pretty expensive but one must also keep in mind that they aren't buying amps, speaker cable, and one less pair of interconnects.

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end

Hi Elk, I've never had the pleasure of auditioning Adam monitors but have heard lots of good things about them. I suppose it boils down to your musical tastes at the end of the day. I listen to a lot of modern music and rock for which my speakers are fantastic.

End of the day, I believe you can get your hands on some great bargains if you look beyond traditional hifi hype.

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end


Quote:
I've heard good things about ATC's powered monitors and I know that they are trying to make the transition from the pro to high-end consumer market. From my understanding they are pretty expensive but one must also keep in mind that they aren't buying amps, speaker cable, and one less pair of interconnects.

Hi Mr Lowry, ATC monitors are very hot amongst the pros. I believe Pink FLoyd mastered the dark side of the moon using ATC monitors. They are pretty expensive and I feel that there is something missing in their middle range, as it goes straight from entry level to high end.

Another thing that turned me off a bit was the low end response on their entry level models which isnt full range due to their sealed box nature (which I suppose has certain advantages when it comes to neutrality and accuracy). But you are right, one should audition them before spending even more money on separate components that might deliver an inferior sound quality.

non conformist
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Re: My take on high end

I was listening to Diana Kralls Girl in the other room album the other day... Dianas voice was alive, and had a real presence in the room. So much so you could almost reach out and feel it. On Temptation her voice was very detailed, I could hear every breath, every piano chord, every emotion in her decadent voice...

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