I'm sure there are plenty of bargain speakers out there that would compete with these. Have you tried the Onix X-LS speakers, or something from Ascend Acoustics? Similar price points and good sound, too.
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Agreed, bargains abound thanks to the industrious fruit of Communist Chinese Labor. Thanks for the recommendation. I was just surprised at how good a $125 speaker could sound. I have no brand loyalty and like most, usually end up purchasing components that meet my sound requirements and looks good too. Paying for appearance often costs more than the price of the replacement parts inside the cabinets. I still look to Hsu for the best value high performance Sub Woofers for the price. Apparently Hsu is also involved in design of speakers for Bic, sold under the brand Acoustech. http://www.bicamerica.com/
I'm not going to discard my 'impressive' main system any time soon, but I will no longer ignore less impressive looking products either.
Further to all of this: I appreciate the tip for ONIX speakers. I ordered a pair of the Reference-1's and have to say that they are outstanding speakers, beautifully finished and very musical! They are a great match for the Onix SP3 Tube amp... But amazingly enough, the Hsu HB-1's (6.5" Woofer) stand their ground in many respects against the Reference 1's and surpass them in a few areas.
The reason for this is that the Reference 1's sound a bit too heavy in the bass and just seem to by trying to reach too low and do too much. The 5.25" woofer/ported design of the Reference-1 isn't up to the challenge and sounds strained to me when played past mid level with 'heavy' music. (My opinion)
For the price, either the HB-1 or Reference 1's are a great value, with the Reference 1's winning for overall detail and musicality for low to mid-volume listening and for being beautiful to look at.
The HB-1's are better able to handle more power (up to 250W RMS) and play quite loud without sounding too bass heavy, strained or harsh, but the Reference-1's can easily be over driven by amps other than the SP3. Both HB-1 and Reference-1 would need a sub-woofer for serious bass extension, but the Reference-1 might be harder to integrate with a sub, given its' more pronounced bass extension.
I heard from AV123 that they may introduce a new monitor speaker later in 2007, with a 6.5" woofer. Based on the outstanding initial performance of the Reference 1's, this new XPRO(?) model might be worth the wait and should be a step up from the Reference-1.
In any case, the Reference-1's are an excellent product and would make outstanding 'near field' monitors, with more than enough bass for a smaller room. But given the price of $250/pair for the vinyl-coated HB-1's, the HB's should not even be able to have a chance against the visually stunning, musical/articulate sounding Reference-1's. Although the Reference-1's are slightly better than the HB-1's at subtle details, the HB-1 is more versatile and efficient as a general purpose 'kick-around' 2-way satellite/monitor, bookshelf speaker.
There is no intention here to inflate the HB-1 or to de-value the Reference-1. It's perhaps not fair to compare these two different designs from different price points. If I had a specialized need for what the Reference-1's do best, I'd keep them. But for 'generic' satellite speakers, the HB-1's are still 'keepers'...too bad they aren't available in a nice Rosewood cabinet like the Reference-1's. No doubt they would sound even better in a more stylish enclosure(?)
Nevertheless, the Reference-1's have created a desire for a more capable reference mini-monitor...perhaps Von Schweikert VR-1's are next? The quest continues.