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xkaapie
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The Quest for the Best Budget Speaker

The Quest for the Best Budget Speaker

Hi everyone, I need help! I am searching for 2 bookshelf speakers, to put in my den/office. Its dimensions are 20x16 feet, and it has wood floors, wood paneling and a fireplace in the middle of the horizontal wall.

My system is composed of a Parasound HCA 800II amp, and a Carver SD/A- 490t, a Linear Single-Bit Reference Compact Disc Player with Vacuum Tube Output.

First let’s define the budget! Like most people, I would love to spend less than more, however for the sake of the quest, there are some boundaries that one should put in place. In order to listen to my sound system today, the budget would be under $300 for the pair In order to listen in 6 months time, under $500, and just in time for Christmas, under $1000.

I listen to a very wide range of music, from the whole ECM catalog, to classical concerto’s recitals and Thomas Tallis, to large choral works , to classical guitar and piano pieces to progressive rock, (Pink Floyd, ELP, Yes, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin) to Joe Cocker, JJ Cale, Dire Straits, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, Lady Gaga, Peter Gabriel Seal and Christina Aguilera among many others, so I need a Swiss army knife type speaker that can present all these styles with aplomb!

Speakers I have owned and loved their sound were the Mission 753 floor standers and the PSB T6 towers. Those speakers gave me the tonality and soundstage that I am looking for. I have started to audition some equipment.

a) Did not like the B&W range under $500

b) Definitive technology were awful without a sub and not great with one

c) Infinity Primus 153, was too brash and in your face.

d) PSB Alpha B1-ok, but did not move me.

e) Polk RTI4 a little too forward and muddy in the mid-hi range, fair to acceptable.

f) Audioengine 5+ which were great when I heard them sourced from an iMAC with a Dragonfly DAC

Pioneer SP-BS22LRs’ which are terrific amazing bargains for the price of $63 for the pair, the sound is terrific for these little marvels but they don’t provide the soundstage/clarity I am looking for and need a little more bass.

I really don’t want to add a sub.

Speakers that blew me away were way at the end of my budget, the Golden Ear Aon, Totem Dream Catcher Speakers that I would love to audition are: Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 Cambridge S30 The only problem is that there are no stores in the Dallas area that carry these models, and those who carry PSB speakers have no bookshelf speakers set up in a listening room.

How can you sell product that way???? It is so ironic that there is obviously a large selection out there in “online world” when one cannot listen to them locally in order to make a decision!!! .

Any suggestions guys???????? All suggestions, opinions advice is more than welcome, Sincerely, Ari

jackfish
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Many online vendors allow in home auditions.

I would suggest ordering a pair of Ascend Acoustics CMT-340SE mini towers and listen to them in your room with your equipment. Then if you don't like them you can send them back within 30 days. But I have a feeling you might hang on to them.

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/cmt340m/cmt340m.html

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/reviews/HTS340Ascend.pdf

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/reviews/aa2007-04.pdf

xkaapie
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CMT-340SE-Looks Interesting!

Thanks for the response Jackfish, I have never heard of these, they look very interesting, I have glanced at the specs and reviews that you included in your post and will definitely check them out. Many thanks again

commsysman
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SPEAKERS

Several of the ones you list there , such as the Alpha B1s, have NO bass at all, yet you say you want substancial bass??

For under $300?

I think maybe what you are looking for would be the Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 speakers, or the Monitor Audio BX-2 speakers. Those are in the $450 range though. Those are as close to the Image T6 speakers as you will get for under $700 or so, I think.

Those are both excellent speakers with plenty of bass (for bookshelf speakers).

I would suggest that you put them on the credit card and pay as you can...lol.

I really don't think you can get the sound quality and bass you want for under $300.

If you really have to keep the price way down and just want something temporary, I would spend $130 on a pair of Polk R150 speakers and use them until you get some more moola.

Once you get to where you can spend $1000, I would get a pair of Monitor Audio Silver RX-2 speakers; those have an 8-inch driver and plenty of bass, and are really great-sounding.

 

 

 

 

xkaapie wrote:

The Quest for the Best Budget Speaker

Hi everyone, I need help! I am searching for 2 bookshelf speakers, to put in my den/office. Its dimensions are 20x16 feet, and it has wood floors, wood paneling and a fireplace in the middle of the horizontal wall.

My system is composed of a Parasound HCA 800II amp, and a Carver SD/A- 490t, a Linear Single-Bit Reference Compact Disc Player with Vacuum Tube Output.

First let’s define the budget! Like most people, I would love to spend less than more, however for the sake of the quest, there are some boundaries that one should put in place. In order to listen to my sound system today, the budget would be under $300 for the pair In order to listen in 6 months time, under $500, and just in time for Christmas, under $1000.

I listen to a very wide range of music, from the whole ECM catalog, to classical concerto’s recitals and Thomas Tallis, to large choral works , to classical guitar and piano pieces to progressive rock, (Pink Floyd, ELP, Yes, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin) to Joe Cocker, JJ Cale, Dire Straits, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, Lady Gaga, Peter Gabriel Seal and Christina Aguilera among many others, so I need a Swiss army knife type speaker that can present all these styles with aplomb!

Speakers I have owned and loved their sound were the Mission 753 floor standers and the PSB T6 towers. Those speakers gave me the tonality and soundstage that I am looking for. I have started to audition some equipment.

a) Did not like the B&W range under $500

b) Definitive technology were awful without a sub and not great with one

c) Infinity Primus 153, was too brash and in your face.

d) PSB Alpha B1-ok, but did not move me.

e) Polk RTI4 a little too forward and muddy in the mid-hi range, fair to acceptable.

f) Audioengine 5+ which were great when I heard them sourced from an iMAC with a Dragonfly DAC

 

I really don’t want to add a sub.

?? All suggestions, opinions advice is more than welcome, Sincerely, Ari

xkaapie
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Thanks commsysman, Thanks so

Thanks commsysman,

Thanks so much for your input, much appreciated.

I wasn't looking for substantial bass, just a little more than I had heard from those speakers I had auditioned so far. But I agree with you, as I continue on my quest, it seems that the option of waiting and saving for those speakers above $500 would get me what I want.

do you have any thoughts, how the Polk R150 differ from the Polk RTI4's ?

commsysman
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SPEAKERS

Neither one is a really great speaker, but the R150 is priced right and IMO is a fairly good one for a very low price.

The RTi4 is very similar in design, and costs a bit more; don't really know if it is better or not.

xkaapie
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Polk Comparison

Thanks for that info

teegood64
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JBL's

Hi xkaapie, 

I had recently joined and started a forum looking stating I was looking for an amp. I was happy with my speakers.

Then resident audiophiles told me my speakers sucked, namely, the JBL L830's. I have always enjoyed them and thought they were "mid-range" type of speakers. 

Anyhow, I decided to take the advice of others and purchased a pair of PSB Image6 speakers. This leaves my JBL's to be shown the door.

I have them listed on craigslist at: http://lancaster.craigslist.org/ele/3598887542.html

While I am not as experienced with hi-end stuff as those on this site, I AM more experienced with low end stuff, and can assure you that the JBL's would be a far better deal than the POLK speakers. Most of what I have owned over the years has been box store bought stuff like Infinity, Polk, JBL, Yamaha, etc. If you go back far enough, Fisher, Sony, and JVC. 

The speakers are in perfect condition and I would sell them to your for $250 plus shipping. You get A LOT of speaker for that price, as they wiegh 22 lbs, which is why the bass is so good, so depending on where you are in relation to PA, shipping may be $50. 

An option!

Thanks, Trevor

xkaapie
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Thanks Trevor

Hi Trevor, thanks for the offer, I am auditioning some more speakers this weekend, much to my wife's chagrin! :)

I was also looking at the PSB image 6, what did you think of them? I guess brilliant which is why the old faithfuls are at the door! let me know what you thought

thanks,

Ari

Ariel Bitran
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Hey fellas

just a note, no selling gear on our forums

but i see this is via craigslist overall, so that's cool

(just want to make the rule known)

teegood64
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New Speakers

Ari, 

I should be getting the PSB Image 6 speakers today or tomorrow. I will get a listen to them over the weekend and let you know, albeit they may not be "broken in" by that time. I have been listening soley to the NHT Classic Two's using a new Amp I purchased, an NAD 356BEE and I think they sound great although not big enough for my 30 x 20 room which is why I use two sets of speakers. The JBL's were shown the door. Sniff-sniff.

Trevor

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PSB Image 6 & NAD Amp

I have been listening to the PSB Image B6's and comparing them to the NHT Classic Two speakers. I purchased an NAD 356BEE on craigs list and that is hooked up to a Yamaha S300 CD player. At this point, I have no phono preamp so records are out for now, so I listen to a USB thumb drive. 

The PSB Image B6's have more midrange tonal clarity than the NHT speakers. Many of the CD's I burned (that were not a great "original" recording) such as older country or 1970's variety type of CD's - certainly not remastered - those recordings have new life to them thanks to the B6's. Although they are slightly larger than the NHT's, the NHT's provide bettered bass. The "highs" are about a tie as far as I can tell and it would not be fair to the B6's as they are probably not broke in.

I have generally found that all the speakers sound sweet together. Timbre be damned! I have the NHT's hung on a back wall pointed slightly down and the PSB's about 15 feet closer to our basement bar on DJ stands at ear level, on the outside of the NHT's, and nearly against the side walls (with the right one pegged in about 10 degrees). Took some experimenting but that setup provides the best imaging and separation. 

I do not have a subwoofer and am looking at a new PSB/NAD combo sub, and NHT subwoofer, or if I could get my hands on one, an Epik subwoofer. I have a corner of the 20 x 30 room that would work wonders, I believe. When I had my NAD 7100 setup I thought that it would be unlikely that I would need a subwoofer but the newer NAD does not have a "loudness" switch and I have found turning up the bass, while adequate, still does not provide the thumping the NAD 7100 did with loudness depressed.

xkaapie
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PSB Image B5's auditioned

I have just auditioned the PSB B5's and I have been auditioning speakers for the last 10 days, my results will follow. The PSB B5's play loud and have great presence in my listening room. One of the pair has an issue with the large driver, it crackles and occasionally cuts out, so this is obviously a problem that need correcting. The speakers have a large soundstage and whatever is played, seems to be reproduced "warts and all"! when the volume is cranked up, they certainly produce a huge sound, but the soundstage tends to get muddy and a little metallic in the mids and especially in the highs, more volume, less refinement (if that makes sense) I think one could get tired of the sound if played at medium to high volumes. HOWEVER........The diamond in the rough seems to have been discovered, I have compared this to the Wharfedale diamond 10.1 and while they do not produce the same ammount of bass that the PSB B5's do, (Smaller cabinet and driver), they are amazingly musical and offer a real classy sound. I have tried to ignore Stephen Meijas's comment about shedding a tear when he heard the 10.1's and have tried to listen as objectively as possible, but I must conclude that the Wharfedales produce the kind of sound that I am seeking. They really are amazing, great soundstage, refined, not brassy and are so musical, they can play almost any type of music, while producing an incredibly musical and emotional sound. The wharfedales will not appeal to everyone, but in my system, they seem not only to sing, but beg to be listened to

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SVS SBS-02, Boston Acoustics A26, Wharfedale 10.2, and more

I have decided to audition the following speakers: SVS SBS-02, Boston Acoustics A26, Wharfedale 10.2, Audioengine 5+, Intimus 5 B and Axiom Audio M3v3.

I have recieved all but the M3v3's and the Intimus 5B, comments to follow.

Online speaker companies are fabulous to deal with. Kudos to Music Direct, Aperion Audio and Axiom, very helpful, love the return policy and audition at home!

All connected up to Parasound HCA 800 with a monster speaker selector (except the Audioengines-direct from the Carver preamp)

Tchaikovsky Piano concerto No 1 with Ivo Pogerelich (DG) in first rotation

Starting lineup sounds promising, the SVS's are definitely behind the pack accuracy, but no soundstage! (on sale for $140 a pair, would have loved to love them at this price!!!) Wharfedales are great, a tad bright brand new out of the box, the big surprise were the Boston Acoustics, wow!!!, the even bigger surprise were the Audioengines, out of the box 5 feet apart amazing clarity and soundstage

rank so far 1-BA-26  2=Wharfedale  3=Audioengine  4=SVS

Next up-Thomas Tallis: Spem in allium

xkaapie
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Goodbye to the SVS SBS-02

Thomas Tallis: Spem in Allium, Tallis Scholars on Gimmel, is one of the hardest discs for a speaker to reconcile, there are multiple choir parts and multiple layers and it really tests a speaker's ability to present each layer in harmony and not to create a sonic muddle! SVS was not able to resolve these layers and still presented a small soundstage, the more I listen to this speaker it occurs to me that it is incredibly hard to drive, and must be suited to be only a satellite in a 2:1 setup with a sub. This was dissapointing, but I guess for that price, it was not surprising. That being said, the SVS was returned. Wharfedales and Bostons performed admirably, with full separation of the vocal layers, although the Wharfedales were still a little bright at the top end. Ranking: 1=Bostons, 2=Wharfedales, 3=Audioengines, SVS=fail.

Next up: Nat King Cole: The issue I have found with this selection, is that the Wharfedales offer incredible soundstage, refinement and clarity, but Nat's voice sounded like it was coming from a speaker. The Bostons, had the clarity, soundstage, but Nats voice was warm and sounded like he was real, not coming from a speaker! can this make sense? I thought it may be the disc but when I played Mozart's Requiem (Bernstein-not my fav version) I was noticing the same thing, soloists were present in my room, while with the Wharfedales, they dtill sounded like they were coming from a speaker. My conclusion so far is that the Boston A26 love voices and are able to reproduce them in a more life-like fashion. I wonder if the Wharfedales will mellow more over time? any thoughts on this?

The Intimus 5B will be added into the lineup today.

so far:  Numero Uno = Boston Acoustics A26, 2nd place = Wharfedale 10.2, 3rd Audioengine

I hope this helps those out there looking for information finding the ultimate bookshelf speaker under $400! feel free to weigh in with any comments or suggestions

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I would like to recommend the

I would like to recommend the JBL Studio 530 standmount speaker. I have been impressed with the clarity and detail in a musical way. The speaker has a horn loaded compression driver that provides focused images in a wide and deep soundstage. The tweeter does not have any of the negative traits of some horns to my ears. I prefer them over my Monitor Audio RS6's and Mobile Fidelity OML 1's.

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Intimus 5B arrived!

the Intimus 5B's arrived and are absolutely gorgeous! glossy piano black. (I kept looking for a Steinway or a Baldwin label at the back!) they are heavy, small and very solid. Build quality seems superb, and they come in velvet bags. Almost no resonance on the cabinet, when I rapped my white gloved knuckles on them. Hooked them up to the Parasound and initially the sound was crystal clear and very timid????! WTF? it seemed like I was sitting right at the back of the concert hall. I think these need to be broken in at least 40 hours. In rotation for this round: Dire Straits-Love over gold, Pink Floyd-Animals, Peter Gabriel-So!, Handel's Carmelite Vespers and Miles Davis-Tutu.

More to follow

xkaapie
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Intimus 5B fabulous clarity but no soundstage

Initially the Intimus 5B out of the box presented great clarity of sound, uppers and mids were very defined, however, I felt that a large portion of the listening experience was missing. I spent the next few days "breaking them in" before any critical listening. Inspite of a long break in period, These speakers could never shake the feeling that I was sitting in about row 50 of a concert hall. I felt that they did not bring the music to me, in the same way the Boston A26's of the wharfedale Diamond 10.2's did. I engaged tone controls on the preamp to see if this would make a difference but still no major difference to the sound stage. I was very dissapointed considering their obvious quality workmanship and finish. For me, it seemed that the package could not deliver the sound that they should have. They are on their way back to Aperion. The final contestant in the quest for the budget speaker arrived today, Axiom Audio M3V3.

so far the runners are 1st- Boston Acoustics A26 and 2nd-Wharfedale Diamond 10.2.

More to follow......

PS. I hope this lengthly review is helpful to people out there. Please feel free to step in any time with comments, suggestions or critique

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Axiom Audio M3V3 added to the line-up

The Axiom Audio M3V3's are gorgeous, out of the box they look like a piece of fine furniture, not a mass market product. I purchased a B stock item for a significant discount and could not see any blemishes to the rosewood finish. they passed the knuckle rap test with flying colours, producing a dead sound with no echo from the cabinet. Axiom Audio were wonderful to deal with and provide terrific sales service. I decided to add them into the lineup and audition them with an opera sample disc. They produced soloists and choirs in a very life-like manner with no speaker colouration, they did have a limited soundstage compared to the wharfedale 10.2's and the BA 26's, however their voice reproduction was very similar to the BA 26's. I decided to listen to John Williams playing the Vivaldi guitar concertos (an AAD recording) to try and determine if their would be any flaws in the ability of the speakers to reproduce all the coherent levels of music. also to try and spot any weaknesses when playing a recording with inherent sonic problems. Surprisingly, the Axiom Audio M3V3's produced the music in a well defined manner but got very muddy as the volume of the piece fluctuated, I determined that this was in the midrange. As I increased the volume, to above normal, the muddiness persisted and could not produce the same resolution of the other two. Jennifer Warnes-Famous Blue Raincoat, was next and still the Axiom Audio M3V3's came in third place. I will try and break these in a little more before final auditions.

Conclusions to follow

xkaapie
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And then there were two! and finally one

I decided to pick a few cd's of every genre that I would normally listen to and cycled through the 3 sets of speakers with the goal of eliinating one pair. The Axioms, did not make it to the final round, the reason for this was, they did not quite reach the level, or surpass the strengths of the other two pairs: Wharfedale 10.2's-large soundstage, great with complex instrumental compositions and presence or the Boston Acoustics A26 incredible lifelike voice reproduction, clear soundstage and great sensitivity. Before consigning the Axioms to FEDEX, I asked my wife to listen and give me her opinion. In  a blind test, armed with the only a designation of a number, she reached the same conclusion, that the Axiom M3 came in 3rd place. Her final comments were interesting. She stated that of the two other speakers, one was better than the other in some respects while the other sounded better in other  musical passages, they complemented each other! this was my conclusion as well. The wharfedale Diamond 10.2's complemented the Boston Acoustics A26! Now what?????????

How do you pick one pair when both pairs complement each other???? Neither of them provided the perfect sound that obviously could be obtained here at this price point. The 10.2's could not reproduce the vocals the way the A26's could, and the A26's could not provide that extra bit of low end, soundstage and presence that the 10.2's could, the 10.2's sounded bigger! if that makes any sense to you.

In the end, I selected the Boston Acoustics A26 because of the way they reproduced the human voice, fed from my system, I felt that the lack of a larger sound/stage presence would not bother me as much as if I had to select the Wharfedales. I would have messed the vocal intimacy of the Boston Acoustics.

Would my choice have been different if they were connected up to a different amp of CD player?, possibly, but I felt that I had to pick the speaker that provided me with a great sound from my system as configured. In other words, connected to a Luxman amp, the Bostons may have come in 2nd best over the Wharfedales, or the Axioms may have come up trumps.

Lessons learned:

1. Never audition speakers in a box store, always at home with your equipment and your room whenever possible.

2. Listen to the advice of the people on this forum

3. Online retailers with their audition at home policy are fabulous, Kudos to Crutchfield, Axiom Audio, Aperion, SVS, Music Direct and AudioAdvisor, great customer service!!!!

4. Lastly, listen with your ears, and your equipment!!

Regrets: That I didn't audition: Monitor Audio Bronze BX2, Kef Q100, Paradigm mini monitors and Ascend Acoustics CMT-340SE!

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps those out there looking for the best bookshelf speaker under $500! now if only someone could reccomend stands and a sub................................

Demondog
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It appears that you have put

It appears that you have put a lot of thought and effort into selecting your new speakers. It also appears to have paid off. Good luck with the Boston Acoustics.

xkaapie
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Thanks Demondog

In the words of Hanibal Smith: "I love it when a plan comes together"

If anyone is looking for input regarding the speakers I auditioned, post a question here, and I will be glad to answer!

Ari

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