I have heard the regular Tekton Lore, which claimed a bass response of 30hz. I was quite disappointed when driving them with two very compatible amps, one an SET tube amp, and the other a well respected class D solid state. After breaking them in for a few hundred hours, the bass response was nowhere close to flat at 30 hz, possibly minus 12db at that frequency. They may have been around minus 3db at 42 hz or so. For such a large speaker, the bass was not impressive or deep. Imaging was fair.
23 responses Add your response
I suppose I should qualify what I'm about to say with the fact that I haven't heard either of the speakers being dicussed.
Although my perception of my experiences may be off, I'd say that, generally speaking, when comparing a stand mount speaker to a floor mount speaker of equal price, the stand mount is going to be the better built speaker.
I've also found that just about all manufacturers make claims of low frequency responses that just aren't realized in the real world.
Dollar for dollar, stand mount speakers sound better. Even though a floor stander may be capable of delivering better bass, you may not be able to realize the benefits of the added bass. This is because putting the speakers where the bass response is best is likely not going to be the position where the speakers image the best, and placing the speakers where they image the best is unlikely to produce the best bass response.
Unless I'm mistaken, ALL speakers rely on reinforcement from their environment for bass response. If bass is what you are going to base your decision on, maybe you should just resign yourself to getting a subwoofer that integrates better.
I run a pair of the tiny Silverline Minuets with a small REL subwoofer and the integration is seamless. I used a setup cd with a bunch of test tones on it and a sound level meter from Radio Shack to get pretty close to where the settings needed to be and tweaked from there. It was a set it and forget it affair.
I currently own a pair of Tekton m-Lores that I bought for surround speakers. I have played with them quite extensively as main speakers, and I am absolutely amazed at how much you get for so little $. My listening area is a loft that is 35' x 15' x 8', and the m-Lores fill the whole area with sound. The bass response is amazing -- I thought I still had the subwoofer running when I first hooked them up. My son is a bass freak and would not believe me when I said the only speakers playing were the m-Lores -- he had to go double check that the sub was off!
The strength of the speakers is they are so musical -- I find myself just sitting down and enjoying the music. They throw a large soundstage, are dynamic, reach much lower in the bass than a speaker their size should (I have measured down about 5 db at 31 Hz in my room) while providing real bass punch, and they do a fantastic job in the midrange -- vocals and guitars just sound right.
Are they the perfect speaker? No, but I can't think of another speaker in their price range that gets so many things right. They do have a couple of things prospective buyers ought to be aware of. First of all, they are not the last word when it comes to detail. But I have to say I really do not notice that as there are so many strengths to these little speakers. But if you are a detail freak, then they probably would not suit you. The other thing is they are so short (about 31") that you will probably have to tilt them back to get the sweet spot of the mids and highs. They are not very heavy, so if you have little ones around (which I do) you will have to take care they do not get tipped over (I built some small, 6" MDF stands that I fill with sand). They are perfect as surround speakers in my setup, but I would have no problem living with them as my main speakers either.
BTW, I have run them with class D amps (Wyred 4 Sound mAMPs) as well as a Marantz receiver -- both sound great (Wyreds better tone and tighter bass, but still very good sound with the Marantz). I am really mystified by Bigshutterbug's findings that the Lores did not have very good bass. I don't think I have ever heard that about the Lores -- usually it is said they have too much bass. Obviously he heard what he heard, so as always, system synergy and room interaction are critical to obtaining the best sound.
I have a pair of Mirage OMD-15 small floorstanders anchoring my LP-based living room stereo. They use a couple of 5-1/4" woofers in a 41" tall column, augmented by a passive radiator and a downfiring port. They have a nice tonal balance and very natural overall presentation. They originally listed at $2500 in 2007.
Last February I heard a fairly extensive demo of the GoldenEar Aon 3s at a high end audio shop's open house. They were powered by a fairly modest 60 wpc PeachTree integrated amp. Several of the listeners wanted to make sure that the system wasn't being augmented by a subwoofer. It was not. That's how good the bass on the Aon 3s is. You see these modest-sized standmounts and start looking for the subwoofer. I can state with some confidence that the Aon 3s are at least a match for many mid-sized floor standers and beat the pants off compact floor standers. Their bass equals or exceeds my Mirages in that department, and the Mirages are 41"x8"x12". They struggle to get down to 40 Hz while the Aons make it into the 30s with ease.
The Aons are 89dB efficient on 1w input, but they have so much more going for them. The bass is not only strong and extended, it is fast and articulate. The midrange is a marvelous driver and their motion transformer folded ribbon tweeter is totally high end--extension out to 35 Khz and not a hint of the ringing and overshoot so common to dome tweeters. If you judge them purely on sound without considering form factor, they are a stone cold bargain at $999/pair.
The small enclosure with all non-parallel surfaces makes for a clean and quiet enclosure and a small front baffle making for holographic imaging and soundstage. Larger speakers at this price will have cabinet resonances that the Aons simply don't have.
Then there's the fact that GoldenEar has an extensive dealer network, so you will probably be able to audition them without a lot of driving. They even have a couple of dealers in Hawaii. They are easy to drive and sound great with a quality integrated such as the Peachtree or Marantz PM8004, but they are so resolving they will reward high grade electronics upstream.
I'm with Holley on this one and I'm also "mystified" by
Bigshutterbug's statement regarding the Tektons, even tough I greatly
respect Bigshutterbug's opinions. My Tekton Lores have wonderful bass in
my 16x14x9 room. It also has good detail, wide, deep soundstage. Wall-to-
wall with great height as well. Male and female voices are right there front
and center. They sound live. Timbre and color saturations are spot on. The
Lore is dynamic, toe tapping PRAT. And when you factor in their cost, one
of the high end bargains.
My brother owns the M-lore connected to a Leben CS600. The bass is not
as deep as the Lore obviously, but it gets down below the Low-E string on
an electric bass guitar with aplomb. In every other respect it is similar to the
I have to admit that all of the buzz going around with the mLores also sparked my interest, which led to a bit of reading up on them.
A poster above mentioned tilting the speakers back to get it so that the listener is in the sweet spot. I've seen this mentioned several times in my research and it bothers me a bit.
Is it to say that you have to be sitting in a sweet spot to enjoy these speakers at their best? How narrow is this sweet spot? Is there so much phase shift (I think that's the term) that you are compelled to tilt the speaker back.
If this is so, it seems to me that there is a fundamental design flaw in that the speakers should have been made a bit taller.
Just got back from Newport show and heard many monitors again.
The Goldenears are great little monitors. Don't dicount the bass, very well tuned passive raditor.
I have the Silverline Minuet Supreme +s and would say the voicing of the GE and SMS are very similar with the large edge to the GEs in the bass.
4-Music Hall Marimba
3-Silverline Minuet Supreme +
Thanks for all the great feedback. And the winner IS::: Both are great speakers! 'Course, I knew that, but I'm very glad to hear more first-hand accounts and it does seem like I would be satisfied bass-wise with either, since my goal is, to put it stupidly, for the bass note to be a solid "dommm" instead of a "hrmmmmm" (subwoofer off) or "blrrrf" (subwoofer on). My current sub is a Klipsch RW-8--inexpensive, but I really resisted investing $$ in a sub. I'll probably go with the Golden Ears because they will fit the room better than the M-Lores and I am sort of a detail freak. I might get the M-Lores later for the larger front room, next time I get the upgrade bug.
Regarding TonyAngel's comment, I agree, and wonder if people may be listening under the influence of conventional wisdom by thinking they need to raise the Mini-Lores. Seems like Eric knows what he is doing and designed them to be floor-standers. I've read that, especially with wide-band drivers, it's not about leveling the tweater, but the sonic center of the speaker, which on the M-Lores would be the 8" wideband driver. But of course it's about individual ears and rooms, and I ain't heard'em.
Good to know that bass freq response figures on floorstanders reflect roll-off the same way the specs on bookshelf speakers do.
I also like this comment and need to think more about it: "Even though a floor stander may be capable of delivering better bass, you may not be able to realize
the benefits of the added bass. This is because putting the speakers where the bass response is best is likely not going to be the position where the
speakers image the best, and placing the speakers where they image the best is unlikely to produce the best bass response."
...this seems to make sense and will have something to do with wall proximity and room size, but I'd have to experiment to figure it out fully. In my specific listening room, the speakers would need to be a maximum of 1 foot from side walls. I wonder if this would be even enough to avoid boominess/boxiness in a small floorstander (it does fine for my small bookshelf speakers, but an inch closer to the wall or too close to the back wall and they become terrible).
I've heard those Goldenears and really liked them a lot, especially for the price. Have not heard Tekton, but a totally different design there. I suspect Aon3 and Class D amp should make a very good pairing!
My only reservation is I am not a ribbon tweeter fan in general and found the high end on the Aon3s a tad to polite for my taste, but that is just me and I think I could live very happily with the Aon3s if I had to. Ribbon tweeter fans looking for bigger sound in a smaller package with room filling soundstage and imaging should absolutely love the Aon3s.
I don't know what your space limitations are, or more specifically, what freedom you will have in experimenting with placement.
If you have to shop for speakers without being able to hear them, try to also gather information on how picky they are about placement.
I have some rather extensive limitations that I have to deal with, in terms of speaker placement. My room isn't as long as yours, but it's a good bit wider. I'm filling something around 2800 cubic feet, not including the areas that the room opens into.
I wound up running a pair Silverline Minuet Supreme Pluses, because they are the most forgiving speaker I've found. I actually have them sitting on shelves in an entertainment center. Each shelf is only 18" deep and about 3' wide and the little Minuets still sound good with a good soundstage.
I'm not going to try to tell you that they go low, because they don't, but they aren't finicky at all about placement and they do the bass that they are capable of with authority.
I was just listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn jamming with Albert King and didn't realize for a while that the sub wasn't on. I'm running a little REL T3. It fast and pretty tight and blends well with the Minuets. I have the crossover set at 50hz.
The GoldenEar tweeter is not a conventional ribbon tweeter; it's a folded ribbon motion transformer along the lines of the Heil AMT. It's still linear out past 30khz, but is not as "hot" as a conventional ribbon tweeter. I think the reason the GoldenEar tweeter is sometimes characterized as "polite" is because it doesn't have the overshoot and ringing typical of the tweeters we're used to hearing. The Stereophile measurements show that the GoldenEar tweeter is not rolled off at all. When I auditioned the Triton 2's and the Aon 3's, the HF extension was all there, but with no harshness or excessive brightness. I consider this behavior a big plus for the GoldenEars and not a shortcoming.
I'm still curious on a "philosophical" level, I guess, about an aspect of floorstanders versus bookshelves. At the same volume level and putting aside frequency response range, is there something qualitatively different about the two types of speakers? People talk about "feeling the music" more with floorstanders, and I wonder if that's just potential for greater volume, or if they move more air because of the larger surface area even if the relative loudness is equal to a smaller speaker. I'm having trouble with the physics. For example, the 8" driver on the M-Lores might have 200 square inches of surface vs. 150" on the 7" Aon 3 (and I know I'm fudging this: different type of driver and not accounting for how much of the diameter is "active"). Point being, the diff might be significant, even with 1" greater diameter. If I'm listening at say 80 dB on each set of speakers, will the floorstander deliver some kind of special quality because the driver is slightly larger? Ignoring individual design aspects, too, so this is a very simplistic theoretical "newbie" question. I did notice when auditioning the Sjofn Clues that they sounded "small" at low volume levels, perhaps brought out by the fact that they're designed to sit below ear level (vertical sound stage on them extends upwards with more power, becoming huge).
Other notes: On the Golden Ears, only criticism I've heard, apart from some people not being accustomed to its tweater style, is that the sweet spot may be rather horizontally and/or vertically small. I'll be able to test that in-store. On bookshelves being more well designed per dollar than floorstanders in general, I suspect that might not be a factor in this particular comparison: the GEs have lots more engineering hoo-ha, plus a dealer mark-up, whereas the Tektons are factory-direct. Profit margin is probably fairly llow on both as entry-level speakers, but I would wonder therefore about something "giving" in the GEs to keep the price down with that many unusual components in it.
Speakers are tools and you have to use the right tool for the job. There is such a thing as having too much speaker for a room. Sometimes, a floor stander is the only way to go. Sometimes, a stand mounter is the only way to go. Sometimes, you could go either way.
There isn't anything philosophical about it. It's in the physics. Where floor standers are going to excel is going to be in the area of the lower frequencies by virtue of both driver size and cabinet volume. For example, look at the Paradigm Studio 40 as compared to the Studio 60. Unless I'm mistaken, they both have the same drivers, but the Studio 60s have more volume and therefor go lower.
With those two, you can say that they should sound the same, except that the 60 has more bass. Where the subjective difference comes in is how each is going to sound in your room. As I mentioned above, bass response is dependent on room placement, as is imaging. Personally, I went with the 40s, because I thought they sounded faster and tighter. It was also easier to set them up because I set them up for image, without concern for the bass and backed them up with a good sub. When I tried to do that with the 60s, the bass sounded slow and muddy.
For me, the combination of the 40s and the sub, sounded better than the 60s, either alone or with a sub.
Now, in this case, you're comparing small speakers with a smaller driver to a larger speaker with a larger driver. I think that's sort of apples and oranges. At this point, all I can say is get the one that sounds the best in your room.
You really can't choose speakers based on specs. As in my situation, I would never have dreamed that I would wind up with a pair of speakers that had 3.5" drivers in them, but they sound the best in my room. Of course, it usually takes more power to get a bookshelf to play as loudly as a floor stander, but when I turn up Diana Krall, I do not get the impression that I'm listening to small speakers. I feel like I'm sitting in a night club.
You also mentioned profit margin and assume that there isn't much of one with the Tektons. I must beg to differ.
When you are in the business of manufacturing a product for sale for a PROFIT, you can make it one of two ways. Keep in mind that whether you are a manufacturer using a direct sales model or a manufacturer using a retailer distribution model, you have overhead to meet before you start putting anything into your pocket.
You make money, to put it simply, in one of two ways. Either with a higher profit margin to make up for smaller volume sales or a lower profit margin and higher volume sales.
I'm guessing that Tekton's model is based on the former. The only point I'm trying to make is that I don't think you shouldn't assume that there isn't much mark up in the Tektons.
Of course, when trying to evaluate the "value" of a purchase when comparing a direct sales product to a distributed product it becomes more difficult. What that, again, leaves us with in your situation is to go with what sounds the best.
If I had to buy speakers without having heard them, I'd probably go with stand mounters, for a couple of reasons. First, because stand mounters usually image like crazy. Second, they are usually easier to setup and deal with.
What really threw me off about the Tektons, was the reviewers comment about the phase shift. Something like that would make me nuts. Like listening to the music in my usual position and then deciding to kick back with my feet up on the coffee table and then noticing that the sound has changed. Or standing up and noticing again, that the sound has changed.
Still, I have no doubt that the Tektons are a great bang for the buck. It also sounds like you're leaning that way and are now trying to justify that.
On the other hand, it also seems like both of the speakers being discussed have short coming that may concern you, regarding what you want in a speaker. Have you considered anything else?
Since I haven't owned floorstanders (at least, not since college, when I wasn't paying attention), your experiences between the two are informative. Sounds like there's no mystery to it.
Placement in this room is fixed: 1' or less from sidewalls, distance from back wall flexible, other short stuff separating the speakers, listening position at about equilateral-triangle-distance into the room, roughly halfway to the rear wall. Since the bookshelves I have are doing "ok" there, it will likely be fine for that type of speaker; however, I did move the subwoofer away from those corners to get cleaner bass, and I won't be able to do that once I rearrange the room, regardless of speaker type. So yeah, I'll start with my best guess and either change the speaker plan or furniture plan if it doesn't work.
Since I'm in a small town with no hi-fi stores, I've been in the pure homework stage so far, which of course is frustrating. But I've found a lot of speakers that people (forum-type-people) like: Ascend Sierra-1, DynAudio 2/7 or Excite X12, Paradigm studio 10/20, Monitor silver RX1, Sjofn (the Clue), Decware DM945, Dali, probably others that I've forgotten. Only reason I was drawn to the Mini-Lores was that they're small for floor-standers and what owners say sounds good to me (frankly, I just want to hear them, but not that $$ badly). A lot of the other contenders either can't pretend to get by without a sub or else would be a little low in the efficiency scale, so that I'd have trouble swapping them out into my larger room if I wanted to do that. The GEs seem to stand out on most counts, so it's definitely worth starting there, plus whatever else is in the store. If it doesn't work out, I'll go down the list and keep in mind some options mentioned in this thread as well.
On profit margins, a third way to make money: low profit on entry level and then jack it up quickly with each step up in the line. That doesn't negate the other economic logic you point out, but I've read on the speaker-DIY forum folks saying that it wouldn't be worth their labor time to buy those components and make the mini-Lores for $650. FWIW.
Man, I'm really feeling for you and don't envy where you are. Picking speakers sucks, because you're always second guessing yourself.
Although my opinion on the mLores is probably next to meaningless, since I've never owned them, it just seems to me that they should have been a bookshelf. They aren't tall enough to be a real floor stander and they're too tall to put on stands. If I had to deal with leaning them back, I'd probably just make some very short tables for them to stand on so that I would get a more linear dispersion from them.
It just seems to me that tilting them backwards would make for a very narrow listening position.
Of the other speakers that you mentioned, I've owned the Studio 10/20s. Personally, I like the 10s better. I thought they had a better mid range, but the 20s low a bit lower and play louder. Still, if you are looking at putting them on stands and are interested in Paradigm, I'd be looking for a pair of Studio 40 v3. The 10/20s are good, but always thought they did better with home theatre than music. The 40s, on the other hand, are very musical with a full sound. The 40s are very substantial too, at around 40lbs each.
I've also had experience with Dynaudio. The Dyn 2/6 and the Excite X12. Both good speakers in the sense that neither did anything that brought attention to it, which is good. The Monitor Audio RX1 is also an excellent speaker.
Honestly, though, given the amount of space that you have, I think that you could probably go a tad larger on the stand mounters without running into placement issues. All of those that you've mentioned are on the small side.
Have you taken a look in the classified here?
I have Aon 3's driven by Parasound/Marantz combo. Aon 3's have very good bass, slightly full mids and DELICATE treble. You can hear all the minute sounds but they are delicate. And also you need lot of power to really shine Aons. With my Naim 5i-2, Aon's were kind of dull sounding without much bass.
For the benefit of people like me who Google into the middle of threads, I thought I'd record my impressions of my speaker comparisons. I'm a newbie compared to most members here, so this is mainly intended for the Googleverse, as well as it just acting as my own scratchpad. I'm not going to be concise at all, nor do I claim special expertise.
I don't have a lot of experience with audiophile-grade gear. Even so, in the end I've been puzzled by the level of superlatives about some of the speakers in the subject line and in general. "You could hear the slight distortion on Nora Jones' voice through these speakers"... This is a surprise? It's always been there on headphones or even on my $330 Axiom M2s... "soundstage extended well behind the speakers and filled the wall" ...Again, my little, much-maligned Axioms do that, too, and I've just always been able to place instruments in space and hear the pluck of strings, resonance of the guitar body, etc., on my systems. That was what I was calling "mid-fi," since I was using (good) budget speakers and a (good) budget sub and (good) budget class-D Icepower amp. So, after reading all that the Webby Web has to offer on the Aon 3s and Excite X-12s, I was deflated to find them better, yeah, but still in the same general league as what I've been hearing from the cheap seats. That's a note for newbies like me about realistic expectations and the law of diminishing returns, which is very steep on audio gear. Anyway, here are impressions., plus a review of the Sjofn "(The Clue)" speakers.
In the hi-fi store, source was a NAD SS amp, 50wpc. Rugs on the walls in a 13x13 or so room, no furniture other than the chair. Speakers maybe 7 feet apart. My own listening room, by contrast, is about as "live" as it can get, and I'm so accustomed to it that I felt somewhat closed-in with those covered walls. It's where all echoes go to die. So that affected my impressions negatively, and I found myself leaning forward to see if details were present, which I never could really tell in that room. I guess I live by reflected waves.
Tracks: In addition to the ubiquitous Nora Jones _Come Away With Me_ (poor Nora: she sooo wants to move on, much less be reduced to a demo disc...), I have found two other tracks to really give speakers a litinus test for bass. First is the MoFi Bob Marley Exodus, the track "Natural Mystic." It can make any woofer quiver in fear at high volume, and I did that with all speakers involved, but only the Aon 2 completely broke down at 80dB or so. This track is also great for assessing sound staging and high-hats. Second is "Caravan" as clobbered by Cuban pianist Chucho Valdez, where there is absolutely phrenetic hand drumming from left and right channels throughout the track, plus a drum kit a bit back in the center. Sociopathic piano runs cover the rest of the soundstage throughout the track, which never lets up. Chucho will tell you immediately about soundstage depth and transient response.
Golden Ear Aon 2. They couldn't even FIND the bass notes on "Natural Mystic." Muddy mess. They were also placed too close together for me (maybe 5 or 6 ft). I think anyone would need a crossover to a sub with these, but none of my amps have a crossover, so I'd not be able to lighten the load on the Aons. Out they go, although the same good qualities in the upper range should be the same as noted below for the 3s.
Aon 3. We moved these a bit further apart. Instant vast improvement over the 2s. I could relax a bit. Not just the bass, but everything was more defined. People say the smaller 2s image better, but that wasn't my experience at all--which is why I point out that they were moved further apart. I didn't bother to try the 2s again in the same position. The folded-ribbon tweater is definitely special. It was very airy. More than I think a traditional tweater could do, really. "Delicate" is indeed a good description. It's a different sound. But I also want to use the word "diffuse" here. And, since "thin-sounding" is an insult, I guess this is what people mean by a "lean" sound. The mid-range was present but didn't really shine for me. Sound stage had terrific depth/breadth but was a little further back than I am wanting. Now I also understand what people mean by "front row" versus "farther back in the audience" (see below on this). Moving slightly to the left/right did move the center of the image, too, but it wasn't unfocused. Bass is surprising from a speaker of this size, but it's not THAT remarkable and there's no "thud," perhaps contributing to my overall impression that the speakers sound a bit light (e.g., like bookshelves) or diffuse. I would really need to bring them home on demo to hear them in my very different room. I guess their sound is statuesque and graceful, whereas maybe what I was wanting was a good solid apple-bosomed Dutch girl. Oh, where might I find one of those?
DynAudio Excite X-12. "Yoooo-hoooo! Hier I am standing!" Instantly, my ears lit up. ...No, I mean literally : it's a condition I have, and I'm very sensitive about it, so shut up. The Excites have a very different sound than the Aons. Much warmer and fuller in the mid-range. No, the tweater doesn't have that air of the ribbon, but it's a darn fine tweater, and it's the sound we're all used to. Silk, so there's none of the ring of the aluminum tweater present in my Axioms. Otherwise, I'd say it has a strong family resemblance to the Axioms, only much better at the same things. Soundstage was more forward than the Aons, but still doesn't come in front of the speakers. I immediately liked them better than the Aons tonally, but flipped back to the Aon 3s to be certain. In fact, they're just too different to really have a favorite, though. The Aons are a less-familiar sound. I can't really describe the Excites except by repeating myself: warm, full-bodied, good solid bottom, very very sweet and smooth up top. "Yooo-hoooo, I am vaiting...."
What surprised me most about the Excites is that the bass is equivalent, to me, to the Aon 3s. The Aons were about 1' from the back wall and, in accordance with the manual, had lots of space to the side walls. I actually think these speakers might sound fuller maybe 18" from the walls, so that's a factor. The Excites continued to sound more full-bodied even at the low end. My only real conclusion, though, is that the 38Hz bragging rights of the Aon 3 vs. the 60Hz of the Excites may be more about room-coupling or liberal vs. conservative reporting (sorry to bring politics into it). Maybe the Aons technically go lower, while the Excites are fuller?
Although both the Aon 3 and Excite X-12 deliver enough bass for music, neither one "punched" the bass during my listen. It was just "there." I thought this was all I needed, but seems like it might not be. Pretty well-defined, but the Aons, especially, sounded like they were on the edge with Bob Marley. The way I'm phrasing it is probably a function of the way their bass has been oohed over so much, so they do remain impressive for bookshelves. Even though the thing that made me start shopping in the first place was mainly the desire to get rid of my sub, though, I don't think I would want to do so with either speaker, even if I might leave it off for 70% of my listening.
One more speaker to discuss.
Sjofn (The Clue) speakers, aka Sjofn (yes, this is my really silly name) speakers. Much less has been written about these, and most of that from audio shows; but, I was fortunate enough to have an owner, acting as the agent of Sjofn, bring his speakers over to my house to play for a couple of hours several weeks before I headed to hear the other speakers. These speakers are designed for placement within 2" (that's INCHES) from the front wall, and to sit on 20-24" stands. They're roughly in the same size class as the Aon 3s, but narrower, with a glossy finish and front bass port. Totally uninteresting appearance, but at least it doesn't slice off your light sabering hand and then stand over you saying "Who's your daddy?" (lookin' at you, Aon). The speakers also project a field in which the laws of physics no longer apply, by the way. The 5.5" wideband driver has a 4" active area surrounded by... a thingie. Ok, I don't understand speaker designs.
The Clues use room coupling to accomplish everything, so placement is all-important. We quickly realized, for example, that these speakers hate, hate, hate to be placed against windows: the top-end became painfully bright. Putting custom acoustic tiles behind them--by which, I mean a dog bed and a pillow--deadened the ring at the top end but left the speakers sounding dead, period. Rotating them so that there was basically too much space behind one speaker and a filing cabinet behind the other turned out to be the best we could do in my room as currently arranged. Here are the results.
The bomb has dropped! Suddenly, you are counting Nora's nosehairs (none, I hope). You can hear the bass player's repressed subconscious. Until this moment, you thought Brubeck's Time Out was a fabulous example of a DSD transfer. Now, you can only think of the limitations of microphone technology in 1959. These speakers are an x-ray machine for your amplifier and recordings. Hyperbole aside (if that's indeed what those remarks were), I discovered that my high-backed leather recliner (my listening position) actually distorted the sound because of slap reflecting off of it. THAT's how room-coupled and detailed these things are. Your room IS the speaker cabinet. Tune it, and it's incredible. These speakers really seemed like they were in a higher class than the others.
Oh, and bass... The reason I noted the two tracks at the beginning of this uber-post was because the Cluues didn't just reproduce the notes, they delivered a compression wave that arrived with a satisfying "thunk" on kick drum hitsand really filled the room with the bassline on "Natural Mystic," although I was able to make one of the woofers fart louder than mi dear ol' Da when pushed above 85dB or so. No way I would use a subwoofer with these.
The soundstage is further forward than I've ever heard--too far, really, but it's addictive. According to headphones and every other speaker, the drum kit on "Caravan" is supposed to be a bit behind the rest of the instruments, but here it's brought almost in line with the hand drums. There's still good depth, but it does seem a little unnatural. On the other hand, the track was absolutely gripping. Every drum hit was as much a shock as it would be in the front row live. In fact, for all jazz tracks, I found myself unable to hit "stop."
For other genres, the sound was very good and really tight, but not necessarily better than competitors, maybe only because there were fewer dynamics to start with. Complex classical didn't quite blow me away, but everything was very fine and I don't listen to orchestral music enough to be preoccupied with sonics there. Except for jazz sounding better than I'd ever heard it (bebop, swing, vocal, pianos), I was, probably unfairly, a little let-down by my first taste of a $1000 speaker, in much the same way that I would experience later in the hi-fi store as described above. I turned on my Axioms after the Clues left and continued to like the Axioms very much, except for the chestiness I've been living with that occasionally pops up near the lower mid-range (probably a big bump 70Hz-100Hz, not present on any of the other speakers). No way as detailed, but sort of "classy" in a low-light wood-paneled restaurant kind of way, whereas the Clues are a perfectly evenly-lit lab. With the Clues, the recording and mastering engineers are band leaders. It should go without saying that this is often not what one wants, especially with any new "loudness war" victims, raising the question: how much 70s classic rock or 60s jazz audiophile disc-listening do I really want to do?. So, I think their main place is as a really first-rate pro tool. By the end of that first experience auditioning speakers, I'd pretty much decided that the Clues were a wonderful fling, but not worth divorcing the Axioms, which are good at making me dinner every night. Still, I would be too tempted if my room arrangement didn't pose special challenges for this speaker, because they really stand out against the Aons or the Excites.
The outcome: I just purchased JRembert's Excite X-12s from the classifieds. Least expensive option if I'm going to do anything. They're not going to play really loud on my amp, but good enough to provide 10dB or so of headroom. I'll leave the sub in place, and just enjoy much better of the same sound I've been used to. I'll still demo the Aon 3s at home when I get the chance, because who just has one stereo in the house?
Yeah, as noted above, my conclusion was really that I'd need to take them home to judge. Too bad I'm too far away to do that easily. But side by side, and presumably broken in in their show room, they were leaner in the mids by intent. I happened to be back in town again yesterday and went back for a second quick listen just to the Aon 3s, this time hearing more in the bass than I recalled (although there was a definite boxiness someplace down there, which I assume was maybe a room mode or else they were too close to the back wall). Plus, I was better able to notice how brilliantly they project acoustic instruments into space. I was using their demo disc this time. Great speakers, for sure. Yet, the overall sound, at least as I was able to hear it in there, turned out not to be for me. It was like the difference between the Aons having a "silver screen" effect versus a color-saturated HDTV, sort of (I visualize strongly when I listen, and that was very much the effect on me). The effect overall really made me uncomfortable, sad to say, and it felt just sort of like the transporter beam hadn't quite finished materializing the musicians on the platform. But again, I've literally listened to my BA A40s for 28 years running, now, plus one or two other speakers that have roughly similar sound in the mids (several designed by Henry Kloss, come to think of it). So I may be too entrenched to readily shake what's familiar to me. The Aons also do have an image that moves around very easily as I moved even a few inches. In a word, delicate.
You know, something just occurred to me. I wonder if the "lack of overshoot" and air of the ribbon tweater urged a particular sound in the mids to keep the whole thing sounding balanced. I'm out of my depth there, though.
And, even as I now await the arrival of the Excite X-12s, I'm actually back to thinking about mini-Lores for the non-subwoofered secondary system in the living room, which would indeed mean disconnecting the Boston Acoustics speakers for the first time since I was 16! ...Did I catch something from touching this board after you guys? Hope not: I'm poor.