Best "Bookshelves" for $500? new or used

About two months ago I got a pair of B&W 601 series 2 for $500 to go w/ my used, budget "mid-fi" system: 1)Rotel RB-980BX amp (120W), 2)Rotel RC-972 pre-amp, 3)DIY TNT-audio X 1.5 IC's (12 strand,30 GA silver-coated OFC), and 4)bi-wired Chris Venhaus DIY (27 pair braid) Cat 5 teflon speaker cables. Originally, I used a Denon 360 carousel w/ Alpha processor (5 cdp for girlfriend) as my source, but found the highs to be really agressive at times (sibilance?). So, I switched to the Denon 370 carousel w/ Burr Brown's. Beautifully warm and smooth unit initially that is oh-so silky, but after a few days I realized that it seriously lacked detail, highs rolled off, and made mid-bass boomy. So I think I'll get a used MSB Link DAC 1 (upgrade later) and a decent 5 disc transport. Anyway, after breaking in, the B&W's seemed like a great buy, but now I'm beginning to think that high freq trouble may be a result of their tweeter and maybe they aren't as engaging as they should be. Possibly because B&W really meant these for home theater. Now I am looking for something w/ better soundstage, imaging, and presense. I now this is a tall order for $500 (used), but something that will fill my room with a detailed, spacious, engaging sound. Preferably bi-wirable now that I spent a month making the cables. I've read great things about the Paradigm Atoms for $200 new, but maybe these are the new budget flavor of the year. Any suggestions? Feel free to email me. Victor
you might get lucky and be able to find the B&W CDM1 SE's now that the CDM1 NT's are out. That would be my choice for your budget. For a bit more you might find the 805 matrix...
It is not the speakers IMHO. It is the Rotel equipment and then between the two most likely the preamp. The B&W 601 S2 (Nautilus clone) tweeter is certainly not dull or Rolled Off. The CDM-1 would be faster than the 601 and more detailed. For used I would opt for the original CDM-1 before the SE version. Has a much better crossover configuration. (1st order). Alternatively instead of the speakers since I don't think they are your problem; for around $400 to $550 pick up a used Conrad Johnson Sonographe SC-26 SS preamp or a tube PV-10.
Interesting response, Sugarbie. Perhaps the 601 S2 tweeter isn't rolled off, but upon cursory listening I felt it was pretty hot in the mid-treble on axis (just like the Nautilus 803 and 804), and I wonder if that sibilance-crisping is what's bothering Darkmoebius. If so, wouldn't the warmer-bodied CDM improve his situation? I'll leave the model diffs re x-over and driver integration to you.... Yeah, maybe it's the Rotel. Things certainly improved tremendously for me when I deleted my NAD pre from my system. What about used Pro-Ac Tablet 50, or Castle Isis? I'd concentrate on these upstream issues, and let the single/bi-wirability preference sort itself without initial prejudice. JMO. Happy Holidays. Ernie
I think my initial post may have been misleading Sugarbie, something about the 601's has a tendency to be annoyingly bright and grating, which I assumed to be the tweeters, but could be a result of my CD player, pre-amp, or both. I mentioned the two Denon's because the have diametrically opposed affect on sound - the 360 (w/ aplha DAC) is sharp and precise w/ great imaging (and fairly bright), the 370 (w/ Burr Brown's) is warm and silky smooth, but lacks detail and poor soundstage, it really compresses things. Even thoug it was warm, there still was that sibilance below the murky sound. Maybe I'm asking Ferari performance out of Corvette components. Don't get me wrong, I think the 601's, compared to similar Paradigm's and NHT's, are really amazing speakers for the price. If it wasn't for the aggressive highs, they'd be near perfect. But, I keep reading about other bookshelves that have wide and deep soundstage and all I can think is "I want it!". Someone on Audioreview's forum suggested Triangle Titus xs's. Have either of you two heard these, they are French and I assume not to common over hear.
Maybe the problem is upstream of the speakers, although I have read quite a few other review/postings that mention the brightness of these speakers. But, maybe I should try out another pre-amp with the Denon 360 (the Alpha DAC is precise). I've always wanted (since college) a CJ setup, maybe this is the time to pick up a used pre and try it out.
Stick with the pv10, I had the sc-26 before. It is ok but the pv10 is way smoother and cost the same.
I have a pair of the B&W 601 (previous version, not the current one). I agree they do sound a little bright and edgy. I also own a pair of Epos EP12s which I bought used for about $550. I enjoy them much more than the B&Ws. They are smoother, better imaging, better bass. I'm using them with tube amps (Cary 40M signatures), so my results may not directly compare to yours, but I can say that for $550 I'm very pleased with the Epos
I bought a pair of Triangle Titus xs speakers a few weeks ago, they're excellent. They image and have better depth than the Paradigms I had. I bought them for $475 including shipping.
I agree with the comments on the 601's but for $400 they are pretty good. I've tried out a few Rotel preamps in the past including the 900 series and I thought they were all on the dull side. Try out another preamp. I'll add the Anthem Pre-1L or Pre-2L to my list.
I would second the tube preamp choice of the Anthem line-up. I used the Pre1L and Amp 1 with the 601 series I. Switched the speakers to Tyler Taylo Reference and they sounded great. The pre is probably more neutral than the amp though. For speakers you might want to look at models with silk-dome tweeters from Scan-speak, etc. Try some NOS tubes in the pre for sure--they are a great buy for the $$.
Dark: If you have not adressed the "isolation" of your player, you are just spinning your wheels, so to speak, trying to improve the sound of your system. The Vibrapods and a sheet of MDF that I mentioned in another thread are the cheapest solution ($24.00 + $2.00 to $3.00) to what you are experiencing. This combo is the least that can be done that will greatly improve your sound. The Vibrapods only isolate the platform from external vibration and the next step would be to use cone points from your player to the platform to drain off vibration from the player. The second step though can degrade the sound if the quality of the player is not high enough. I am telling this to you (for the last time, LOL) as friendly advice as I understand that you are on a beer/wine cooler budget. I have a very good but not too expensive digital front end, however if I remove the isolation components from my player and DAC the sound deteriorates greatly and my equipment is fairly well isolated on its own (contained in a 300lb plus cabinet to the side and behind my speakers). I also use the Pods on an inexpensive two unit mini system with the same results, the sound is more detailed yet much smoother at the same time. Try placing different items from the household under your player (telephone book, hard cover coffee table book, mouse pads, tennis balls and whatever) and you will see how each changes the sound of your system. For $24.00 you can get something specifically designed for the purpose of improving the sound.
Seeing how the right sound is so personal. Thanks for reminding me Dekay, I blew off your suggestion last time as hocus-pocus, but for $30 bucks it is probably the first thing I should try (at least I can still use it wherever I end up). 1) I'll get back the Denon 360 ($150) (w/ Alpha DAC) because I have to have a 5 cd player (girlfriend) and the DAC really expanded the soundstage with clarity. The 370 just sounds too compressed and muffled for me. 2) Try it w/ telephone book, etc., then pods and MDF.3) Borrow a good single player and try sound through the pre and sourced direct to the amp 4) I'll know if it is either the speaker or the pre, 5) Try the CJ pv10 or Triangle's, or Phase Tech Teatro 4.5's accordingly. On the CJ PV-10AL, I see they go for $600 and up, that is quite a jump from the $200 I paid for the Rotel. This might lead me to switch speakers first because I can make a horizontal move (+ or - $75) easily. I should state for the record, that the B&W 601 s2's are absolutely incredible speakers for $450 w/ tax, even better since I see people getting them for $350 now (just my luck, 2 mos later). I think the problem is that the B&W's and the Rotel components are both a little bright, and together it is too much. Thank you all, and if you have any more input, please let me know.
Mattman where did you get the Triangle's?
I bought them from Alan at Audiowaves about a month ago.