I have a pair of Audioengine A5 black. I have them connected to my TV for the occasion that I am too lazy to fire up my audio system. They sound very good consider the low price. My room is pretty big, about 39'x15', and the A5 produce more than enough volume. I think you will be happy with them.
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I've owned a lot of 'budget' speakers over the last few years and by far the best of them are the Cambridge Audio S30's. I think they compare favorably with anything I've heard at two or three times the cost. Combined with a moderately priced DAC with Toslink input and the Airport Express you'd have a fine system.
I just bought a pair of the Pioneer SP-BS41-LR that got the great review in Stereophile a few months ago. These list at $199 a pair, but most places sell them for $149-$169. I found them brand new, factory sealed, full warranty for $99 plus just $5 shipping.
They are frickin' AMAZING! I think everyone should hear these just to see what can be done for well less than $200. At the price I paid, it was a no brainer to try them out.
Keep aware of amplification!!! I think trying the Pioneer speakers is a great idea. Andrew Jones is a great designer, as evidenced by the TAD speakers. However, these are pretty low efficiency. You will need a decent amplifier, not a 15 watt digital amp, to make them sound good. Ditto the Silverline Minuets (I've heard them sound great with Pass amplification), or Proac's, or... It's the combined speaker and amp that make it work.
At that price, I wonder how it would sound to stack eight pairs for a poor man's line source.
The Audioengine A5 is a good suggestion as you don't need an amp to power them. Another suggestion is the Gallo Acoustic A'Diva with one of the Gallo subs designed to mate with them. We have the A'Divas mated with the MPS-150 sub in the living room; they provide surprisingly good sound. My wife likes them as they are barely noticeable.
The A5s would be a good bet. Another option would be the Cambridge SoundWorks Model 12. I use mine on the TV, and it is very satisfying, as it comes with a sub and 3 channel amp. Plus it all packs into the sub for travel. Great little speaker setup. They retail for $500, but I've seen them for $400, and got mine used 8 years ago for $125!
Thanks for all the replies gents.
@ Sidssp - Great to know that A5s are loud enough to fill a living room. It was always a concern for me. In terms of sound quality though, would I be better served my separates. Granted they'd be more expensive, but the performance is there for the dollar I don't mind spending more.
@ Buconero117 - aren't those ProAcs like 2grandish? That's way out my budget sadly =( Heard many great things about this brand on the whole though. Maybe for my next upgrade...
@ Sfar and Afranta - Many thanks for the recc on the Cambridge S30s. Have seen them around online, but never considered them (really don't know why) Definitely need to audition them. What electronics would you recc that I pair with these?
@ Mofimadness and Peter_s - Thanks for the headsup on these Pioneers. Been reading about them and their definitely very interesting. The glowing review on Stereophile really helps. I'm having a hard time finding them here in Singapore though. Most big box stores carry Pioneer gear but these speakers are not available through them. Will have to hit them hifi shops.
Btw, you mentioned they need gobs of power. What amps would you recommend for them? What power output should I be looking for?
@ Lars - Epos! Glad you mentioned them. I've heard the Epoz Aktimate mini from Australia which is reportedly an Epos speaker with Creek electronics in an active package and boy do they sound good. Their about 200 bucks more than the A5 but really blow them out of the water.
@ Manoterror - Hmm, not sure about the Soundworks, reckon they might be too underpowered, since their portable speakers. SQ wise are they any good on the money - compared to separates?
Milesandcoltrane - I've bought three pair of the Cambridge S30's. One was for a system for one of my daughters where they're used with an Onkyo A-5VL integrated that has a very nice built-in DAC with Burr-Brown PCM1796 chips. The second was for some friends who wanted a receiver so I bought a Pioneer Elite XS-A6-J for them. That's a very impressive amp with typical Elite build quality and a smooth, articulate sound, another real bargain like the S30's. The third pair are in my basement being driven by a DIY chip amp.
I've tried them in my living room system driven by a Simaudio I-5 LE and one of the impressive things about them is that even with an amp that cost 16 times what the S30's cost they still sound way better than their price would indicate.
@sfar - Wow, those are some wonderful words for the S30. That just bumped it up my audition list =) Funny you should mention the Onkyo A-5VL. I did audition that amp with the Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 last year. Was keen on it because of the built in DAC. That setup didn't blow me away unfortunately. It sounded pretty good on simple acoustic tracks with 3-4 instruments like Jazz trios and stuff. However it started breaking up and sounded less coherent in busier passages. I think it was Art Blakey's Night In Tunisia. In some parts of that track you've got horns, the piano and the drums and cymbals going pretty fast - that setup just couldn't deliver the sound with ease. I was driving this from my Macbook Pro at the time - Lossless files hooked up optically to the Onkyo.
That Pioneer elite amp you mentioned is quite pricey at about 600ish retail. But will look into it.
Would you advise one of Cambridge Audio's integrates with the S30? Perhaps the Azur 340/350A or one of the Topaz amps possibly?
@Donjr - Ah Epos, seems to be quite highly regarded. Was also thinking of the ELS3 since the price is very affordable.
@Cdc - Yes I do like netural - if that refers to a natural sounding setup. Very often people refer to a setup that's natural and to my ears it ends up sounding bright =( That was mostly for headphones though. I have very limited experience with speakers.
@ sfar and Afranta - I've finally got the opportunity to audition the Cambridge Audio S30s. Amazing speakers for the money. They were playing lossless files from my Macbook Air via USB into a Cambridge DacMagic into a Cambridge 350 integrated.
The same electronics were plugged into a Dali Ikon 5 and Zensor 5 floor standers. They definitely provided a bigger sound. But the S30 put out sound that was surprisingly close to what the Ikons delivered. The only thing with the Ikons were the very bright highs. The Zensor had a bigger sound - a more prominent mid range.
The S30 though was the real star. At about a 1/4 or a 1/5 of the price they delivered more accurate - though slightly smaller sounding - sound. Texture of instruments was impeccable.
I tried the Mordaunt Short Carnival 6 floor stander at another store (they were going for 10bucks cheaper than the S30s!!!!!) with a wonderful handmade tube integrated from a Thai company called TS Audio (15wpc). Amazing and correct tone through the tubes.
Bummer that I missed the chance to pair the S30s with the tubes though =(
Actually, at 50 watts x 3 channels, they are more than loud enough. I have never had them above half volume. I run them in a room that is 13 x 20 and they are plenty loud.
You really don't need as many watts as some think are required. I was also using a 13 watt per channel Roth MC4 amp with 6ohm Mirage OMD-5 speakers, and I never wanted more power. Now I'm using a 35 Watt amp with Totem Rainmakers that is also fantastic.
Hope this helps.