Exactly as the title says, I am in the marketplace for my first set of decent tower speakers to set the front stage of my HT set-up. I am in my mid 20's and listen to all kinds of music with a heavier hand on electronic, rock, and motion picture sound tracks. Some examples being Paul Van Dyke, Armand Van Buren, Tiesto, or Paul Oakenfold. Rock examples would be Creed, 3 Days Grace, Metallica, Megadeath, Disturbed, Linkin Park. I think Motion Picture sound tracks are self explainitory, but I do prefer more orchestral or electronic types.
Now on to what I am buying,... I currently own a 7.1 Channel 110 watt x 7 Pioneer VSX series receiver. Have had it for about 5-6 years now, no HDMI switching or anything nifty like that, but it does have Optical In/Out which I am currently using. For a CD I use my PS3 for most everything. I have a new Sony 46" 3D LED TV anchoring my theater. My current speaker set-up is a HTIB made by Infinity called the HTS. Consists of an all bookshelf system with 4" midrange and 3/4" tweets in each enclosure that is ported. I have a small 8" 150 watt powered sub along with it.
This system has provided me a base appreciation for movies and music while in college and up until now. I recently got bit by the bug after buying my new TV and want something to provide truly impressive sound. My budget is very low and I understand that it is not easy shopping like that, but I will buy things one piece at a time.
My first purchase I am looking at is some front tower speakers. So far I have auditioned the B&W 603's, the Wharfedale Diamonds, and the Paradigm Monitor 11's. All of these were played through a $4000ea. SACD - Preamp - Amp combo that the home theater shop had in their demo room. From what I listened to I have a huge preference towards the Monitor 11's which are at the absolute peak of my price range for this purchase. I loved the sound, the speakers set a great sound stage, the music was very detailed, and I couldn't help but wait and listen for each coming note. The B&W's were also impressive but lacked the low end punch of the Paradigms. The Wharfedales I didn't like until I was cranking the power, and I don't want something that will require me to wake the neighbors to get decent sound.
I have been doing a great bit of research online, and love the look of the Axiom M60 and M80's. However the M80's are 4 Ohm Impedance and I don't think that my old Pioneer can push them. I looked in KEF iQ9's, Martin Logan Preface, Boston Acoustic VR 970/975's, Polk 500's, Monitor Audio, and a few others. I have read every scrap I can about them all, but have no way to audition any of them.
As mentioned previously the high end of my budget is $1500 on the pair, any money saved will go towards the next piece of the puzzle, most likely an amplifier or Sound Processor. I have a tendency to gravitate towards the speakers with better low end extension, and I don't like overly bright highs as I find them fatiguing. A more neutral sound is what I'm after. I will absolutely consider pre-owned equipment as well if I can get a better quality piece. I'm all about bang for the buck.
I have lsitened to most of the speakers you list above. For Home Theater, Rock and Electronic, the Pardigms are a very good choice. They are fairly efficient and should present a resonable load for your receiver. Also, they sound nice without being overly revealing, I.E. they won't necessarily make you want to run out and dump your receiver for something better. You could also consider the Monitor 9's as a less expensive alternative to the elevens - depending on your room size, you may not notice the difference in bass responce (much).
Another of your choices I would second is the Monitor Audio Silver RSX6. These are great sounding and looking speakers that work very well in smallish to moderate listening rooms. They might be less forgiving of amplification than the Pardigms, and are on the brighter side of neutral, but for the money they are spectacularly good speakers.
Another choice at the upper end of your price range new is the Rega RS5. Very nice speakers with good bass and smooth character, but maybe a little laid back compared to the Paradigms and the Monitor Audios.
For Online products, the Axioms are very revealing and on the brighter side of neutral. High quality amplication is more important here to get satisfying results. As an alternative, I would consider something like the Aperion Audio Intimus 6T, which would seem more in line with your expressed tastes and current equipment.
I can find you Totem Forest out of my stock shipped and packed for the price you're asking for. They're used black made back in 2001 but in great working condition. It's a bargain vs today's new price and they play any kind of music the way it should sound.
i also like the totems and monitor rs; however, you'll want to assure that you're speaker isn't especially fussy about the amp you're driving 'em with--some very good speakers in your range, like von schweikert vr2 or revel f12, might not be a good pairing. i've heard focal chorus and psb imagine sound really good with modest avrs; in any event i'd definitely buy used.
Many excellent recomendations. I would also suggest looking at the Zu Audio website and independent reviews on Zu's previous and present offerings. Very easy to drive and could fit the description of the sound you are seeking.
See if you can find some Focal speakers to listen to. I would suggest the Chorus 800 series, but I think the smallest floorstander, the 816v, is a bit above your budget. I prefer them to the PSB, Paradigm and B&W, at least the ones I've heard.
I would recommend listening to any speakers that your serious about on a normal system similar to your and also on something high end to get an idea of their full capabilities. I listened to mine on a system that normally was used for $180k speakers so I have an idea of what their full potential is.
I really like the Paradigm speakers, but they can be very bright sounding so I wouldn't recommend them if you don't have carpet and some furniture in the room. Here's how I'd rank the four brands:
Focal, Paradigm, B&W & PSB, but alot of it depends on the individual models. They are all excellent products.
These. Mirage OMD-15 omnidirectional, originally released at $2500 per pair, and very competitive at that price. I have had mine for over two years, and they have a captivating combination of smooth, natural tonal balance and deceptively high resolution. They throw a realistic soundstage and hold their tonal balance and stereo image regardless of where you're sitting or standing. Fairly efficient and good, tight bass extension down into the low 30's as well. Vocal reproduction is especially good.
Three more to consider are whatever Zu currently has on sale to fit your budget, the PSB Image T6, and the Magnepan 1.7's. The downsides of the Magnepans is that sensitivity is a rather low 86 dB and they present a 4-ohm nominal load, so your amp or receiver must have an FTC power rating into 4 ohms.
ERA d14 some screaming deals right now. fit your description or desires fairly well. I have a set and am pleased. Did not compare to Revel, focal, gallo, or mirage suggestions above. Preferred the d14 to the paradigm monitors (not close) and for me and my music liked them better than the studio line. Liked the totem's fine but did not get excited about the bass. If you can find some PMC used that might work. Would you consider some bookshelves and a sub?
Slikric3000 - I was surprisingly unimpressed with the Definitive Technology speakers that I listened to. I didn't hear man of their speakers, but the they seemed almost dull compared to the other brands.
And I am sure you are so right that's why they have been making some of the same models for over 20 years now. There has gadda be other people besides you that like them for a production to run that long.
Focal Electra 926 or 936. You may find them here for $1500 sometimes. They were $4200/$6500 respectively when new about 5 years ago. They will allow you to hit it hard when you want to. I had them before moving into Utopia line.
I actually had a competition SQ car audio set-up with Focal Audio Utopia's. Great drivers, loved the sound. I just don't know how all the car audio friendly speakers companies transfer over to home Audio. It's crazy, I have never seen soooo many different brands names as there are in HiFi. How can all these companies possible exist and make enough money to stay afloat?!? Right now my personal favs are as follows:
I really appreciate the above standard woodwork I see on the last 2, and that really draws me in. I really do appreciate all the opinions guys. If anybody is in MA or Southern NH and wants to demo for me let me know! I'll bring the home brew of the scotch. =o)
I would agree with the Zu Omen recommendations.....I have the exact same listening preferences and I am loving my Omen Defs. Amazing bass for electronica. Great dynamics and sound stage. I much prefer the Zu's over the Monitor Audio. I had the GS 10 and the GS 60's and the Omen Defs are better for 2 channel listening in my space and with my set-up. Good luck!
My only concern with those Zu's is that the 10" driver to me seems like it would get sloppy. The larger drivers have always been harder to keep tight and punchy. I look at the Axioms with the 6.5" drivers, or the Paradigm with the 7" and think, multiple smaller drivers must be better for precion an control. I know when I did SQ car audio stuff I always ran a 4 way set up because of this. I ran the tweets, a 3.5" midrange, and a 6'5" mid woofer with 12" subwoofers.
While I agree size is necessary to move large quantities of air and thus produce deep, booming bass. I think many smaller drivers making up similar surface area would have better control and clarity. Can somebody please correct me here? Also, I don't see a dedicated tweeter on the Zu's. I presume the tweeter is attached to the pole piece of the mid-bass driver? Would this not effect sound in a negative way as well? I guess I could be reading into this too far, but I see a speaker like the Axiom M80 with large quantities of drivers and think that somehow has to be better for musicality than the single 10" of the Zu. I also have similar concers for the Totems,... 1 mid-bass driver, 1 tweet. How can that possible keep up with these other towers?
Another vote for Monitor RS6, excellent for A/V or 2 channel, you can probably find it used for $600-700. There's no difference in sound whatsoever of the RS6 when I compared it to the newer RX6 (I've owned the RS6 for a while). I recently auditioned the RX6, Sonus Faber, B&W 802D, and Def Technology using a Primare i30. For the price, the RS/X6 is hard to beat and it held its own with both the SF and DT. Of course, the B&W was superior in sound to the rest, but it's several thousand more; what would you expect? Hope this helps!
Every speaker design is a compromise in some way. Having many drivers, each handling only a couple of octaves, can produce more linear frequency response and higher power handling, but the multiple crossovers are either going to be very expensive or will suck much of the life and dynamics out of the music. That's why 2-way mini-monitors are so engaging within their operating range.
The primary Zu driver keeps the crossovers out of the main listening frequency range. They use a whizzer cone and a phase plug to help keep frequency response and dispersion pattern more uniform over its whole operating range. For the high overtones it hands off to the supertweeter just below it.
All things being equal (which they never are), small diameter drivers generally have less cone breakup and wider dispersion than large drivers. But if the 10" cone is properly designed with a rigid material, the voice coil is big enough and the magnet is strong enough, you can get very clean linear response from a 10" cone, no problem.
Pretty much any review I've seen from any magazine is very enthusiastic about the sound of the Zu speakers and complimentary about the seamless sound and uniform dispersion of their nearly full-range 10" driver. I seriously doubt that it's a problem, and if it is, you have their 60-day return period to break 'em in, listen, and decide.
That is what I wanted to say Johnnyb53, but I am not as clear nor as concise:).
I learned recently that for me, all the theories and all the ideas that I had and read about, are much less meaningful than bringing the speaker home, spending a good amount of time to set it up properly, finding synergy with matching components, and listening to music that I like. Just my .02$.
I would certainly add the Kef Q700 to your audition list.
They are quite new and have press just hitting the stands but it appears that they are generally prefered over the B&W 600 Series. What I have noticed about the design is the attention to making them very adaptable to a wide variety of room conditions. The measurements that came for the Q300 out of Germany showed very good neutrality and dispersion that is superior to anything in their class. A user who had a chance to compare the RX6 to the Q500 found the Kef to be superior on everything but the bass region. Once they moved to the Q700, the remarks were that it added the bass weight and clarity of the RX6 with the superior mids and treble.
Agree with Johnnyb53. Effective execution of multiple crossover networks adds challenges and cost. All things being equal, easier to achieve a coherent sound with a good two-way design - and I generally like small two-way towers from the likes of Totem, Quad, Devore, Naim and others because they are so musical sounding (to my ears at least). And I haven't heard any of Zu's speakers yet.
With that said, I also have to agree with earlier posts recommending the Focal Chorus 800 series. Very nice sounding speakers, and all the tower models have more than two drivers.
If you could find a used pair of B&W CM7's, they are very nice as well.
Ultimately, Morganc is right on with their recommendation to take some speakers home and audition em with your gear and your music and your ears in your listening room.
From my admittedly cursory review of others' recommendations, I'm pretty surprised that no one has suggested Vandersteen. You could get 2ce signatures -- one of the most successful speaker designs of all time -- used in your price range, and they do many things well with many types of music. Model 1's would be an option if you only wanted to buy new. Vandersteen also makes center and surrounds, so you could eventually get to have all matching speakers in your system, which is almost always going to sound better than a mix-and-match configuration. Happy listening!
I'm pretty surprised that no one has suggested Vandersteen. You could get 2ce signatures -- one of the most successful speaker designs of all time -- used in your price range
Agree w Dawgfish except for one thing, OP says his musical tastes run to rock and electronica. For any other preference, I would have certainly said used Vandy 2CE sigs. I owned a pair of 2Cis for many years but never really thought of them as rock and electronic oriented. But the option of getting the fronts for a matched HT rig is a good idea. Not sure how well an HTR will drive them but you could certainly turn them over quickly if they didn't work out.
There is currently a spendor s8e used for sale on audiogon. Jump on it. I auditioned a few of the speakers you listed and opted for the spendors 2 years ago. I paid $2k used. Never looked back. The better the components around it, the better they sound. Super buy and you may be able to get a good deal with the sa6 and sa9 that just came out.
Fritz Carbon 7's might be worth adding to the mix. Have not heard the towers, but the monitor version is very fine at 1700 (I believe Fritz sometimes has breaks on demos ). Maybe not the most rocking, but highly musical. I believe Fritz will do in home demo; worth a call.
As mentioned, Zu also has a generous demo policy, and has been running sales. I heard the Soul Superfly at RMAF, and was impressed. Nothing made me think sloppy -- I think they image nicely -- though they hit my ears a bit forward in the highs. Something in their line would make sense to try, esp. if you have trouble hearing stuff in yr area.
I actually own the Zu omens and would recommend them, however room placement will be important and a SOLID break-in period. As for the tweeter, it does have a "super Tweeter" below the 10" driver (that silver disc below the driver). In some cases I have found the Highs to be dominant but the style of music and recording will play a large factor in this. FYI I have almost the same setup, but i'm using an Audio Refinement Pre-2DSP and a Multi 3 for a 2.0 system.
I also own the Zu Omens (I am still auditioning them), and I would recommend for a beginner system for 2 reasons: 1. They do a lot of different music well, so as you get into this hobby and undoubtedly discover new music the Zus will not slow you down, and 2. They are easy to drive, so as you get into this hobby and undoubtedly try different types of amplifiers the Zus will not limit you. OK, 3 reasons. 3. Becasue if you don't like them you can send them back.
$1500 will get you a used pair of Vandersteen 3As. Bass extension, and plenty of it, down to below 30HZ. A balanced, detailed, nuanced presentation that is emotionally involving and never fatiguing. And they are so open sounding, never boxy. Not as "exciting" as some speakers, but that's because Richard Vanderateen makes his speakers to reproduce the music, not add to it. Not the most beautiful speaker, but you're paying for components, not a beautiful enclosure. I have gotten so I like the way mine look. Plus they have a grand, large soundstage and great imaging. Another advantage is that they sound good on most any kind of music. I play punk, hard rock, classical, ambient, pop, jazz, just about everything and they good on all of it. And they are pretty good on home theatre also. No subwoofer needed. I've listened to/auditioned a lot of speakers, including Pro Ac, B&W, Martin Logan, Genesis, Alon, Thiel, Merlin, Magnepan, Quad, Wilson, and many more, and am convinced that, for the money, Vandersteen is clearly the best speaker you can buy. Period. Until I hear something better anyway. BTW, I'm afraid the Pioneer will have to go. Good Luck, Martin.
Slikric3000 - I wasn't comparing the Definitive Technology speakers to mine that are a much more expensive speaker. I was specifically thinking of the StudioMonitor 350 & 450 and also one of the bi-polar floor standing models that was either the BP6B or BP8B. All of these speakers are in the price range of the OP. In the same room I also listened to a pair of Monitor Audio bookshelf speakers that sounded much better.
I was very interested in the Definitive Technology brand because a friend of mine in college had a pair of the BP2000 speakers that I was very impressed with. It's possible that their more expensive products still sound excellent.
How about a used set of old infinity speakers, preferably a pair of Kappa 8.1's? They can be found for $400-1400 & sound great. The 7.1's are easier to drive but do not play as low, still great speakers!!! Many state the 9.1's do not sound as good as it's smaller brother the 8.1 so I would stay away from them. I would at least do a little searching to see if someone has a set you can listen to.
The only downside is they need some power to get them to sound great so the money you saved on not spending your entire speaker budget can get you a amp. When money is willing get a 2nd amp to bi-amp the speakers & they will totally rock. I think these are hard to beat especially when you like the techno music that you like, same stuff I enjoy & they do great. Shake the house but do it accurately :) For low end extension you just can't beat a large driver.
Presently I use a parasound hca-1500 to power my speakers & I would not run them off of a receiver.
For HT a sub isn't a necessity with these speakers but any good speaker can't reproduce a explosion or impact like a true sub.
This post is quite old, I'm not sure I op bought the speaker already. Your path is just like me, start with a receiver and 5.1 speakers. I then bought a floorstanding speaker. If u want good stereo music, u need to separate music from home theater, get a preamp and a amp. For speaker under $1500, u have many choices. I got my B&W CDM9 NT for $1600. Very good speaker, but u need good preamp and amp to show what it can do. Or u can stretch your budget a bit, $1000 for speaker, 400 for preamp, 600 for an amp. Paradigm is pretty good speaker, very neutral, u should be able to get it under 1000. BTW, I will definite get used equipment.