under $300 bookshelfs: does excitement exist?

sub sidized of course.
I heard a set of Epos speakers at a show that blew me away for there size and price.
Without subs, the Athena Technologies Audition line sounds great: open, clear, dynamic and fast, and perhaps better at timing than anything else out there. And decent bass too. These are the descendants of the Sound Dynamics RTS-3s Harry Pearson went on about (and while you must suspect him of being full of crap with regards to expensive equipment, why would he rave about cheap equipment unless he was honestly impressed?) They were good enough that I retired from the "High-end" bullshit, except insofar as my vinyl rigs go.
i know it doesn't really matter johnnantais, but bestbuy, honestly? i am not being a pr@#k, just truley curious.
Hi, Try the Axiom M3ti or the M22ti that I have. I use them with a tube integrated amp and a powered sub and I'm happy. 30 day money back,factory direct and free 2-day Fed-Ex shipping.Try the factory outlet store for better prices. Look at both reviews @ www.soundstage.com
B&W DM303's; you will be amazed. Also, Paradigm Atoms or Titans. I have a pair of Titans in the bedroom without a sub that are doing a great job.

Good luck,

If you are "just truely curious", do some homework on the Athena Line. I was shock when I saw that they got picked up by BB. They are a very well reviewed speaker and are very inexpensive. This line has been carried by AudioAdvisor for a couple of years.

One added benefit of the Athena speakers is that they are relatively efficient, so any amp over about 5-10 watt/channel would likely drive them. This opens up lots of possibilities including a small tube integrated amp or something like a single Monarchy SM-70.

Don't discount the Athena just because best buy picked them up. These speakers have gotten great reviews in their price range. Also, if you buy them at Best Buy or AudioAdvisor, you could try them and return them with little/no hassle if they don't work for you. Can you do that with a used or "Audiophile Brand" from another e-tailer? Oh yeah, they can be had for under $200!

Past the Athena, I think the new Epos might be a good choice as would some of the Castle speakers that are being closed out right now.



Another vote for the B&W 303's and, if you can find them, the Ruark Epilogue for that price used is another level up.
Dylan (I'll call you Dylan if you don't mind), the greatest things are found in the unlikeliest places! If the Great Harry Pearson can get past the Best Buy thing, then so can you. While there may be speakers in this price range which better the S-Ds at various things (though I'm not certain of this), I would hazard to say that nothing touches them musically. I don't understand how the designers have done it, but they've done it. I was on the verge of yet another series of very expensive and miserable upgrades (people in the high-end can vouch for this experience, when an "upgrade" throws a good system out of balance leading to months of misery, instability, and spending), when, out of curiosity I decided to walk into a shop to hear the enormous AS-F2s which both Stereophile and Soundstage have raved about, and I couldn't believe my ears. Clarity, speed, detail but best of all, a supernatural (this is the only way I can describe it) ability to get the delicate timing and rhtyhm across, to make it fun and enthralling...I'm speechless. I'm buying them. I'm out of the game. And being very sensitive, they'll make the most of low-powered, high-quality, reasonably-priced amplification. Of course, there are other stars out there, but I've found my Holy Grail. And incidentally: they were hooked up to a Harmon Kardon, beautiful to look at (acrylic front plate, blue back-lit chrome volume control, beautiful digital readout, heavy, two-channel) which sells for only $400. I picked it up to see if it was quality, and it was extremely heavy, meaning beefy transformer. It was smooth, detailed, punchy and had excellent timing (though the S-Ds have something to do with this). It makes me wonder if I drop all the way out of the game and buy it too. Anyone else out there know anything about the new series of H-K components? C'mon, keep an open mind, don't be embarrassed. Maybe it's time to sell my tube amps!
Yeah....B&W 302 or 303
Dylan, I'm with John on the Athena line. I presently use 4 Sound Dynamics RTS-3s for my HT. They are a truly amazing speaker for the money. For a short period I was using two of them for my 2 channel system while waiting for my present speakers to arrive. Time and time again I sat in front of these speakers doing some very critical listening. I was awed by their performance.

Is there better out there? Absolutely. But I challenge anyone to find the price to performance ratio that these speakers offer. At this point in time you can probably find a set for under $200.00 new. I have not heard the newer Athena line, but if they sound as good as the RTS-3s you really can't go wrong.

If you have a Mapleshade catalog, you will notice that Mapleshade offers a set of floor stands that tilts the speaker back at approx. a 15 degree angle. You will notice that the speaker used on that stand is an RTS-3.

Best of luck and happy listening.
I just have to add more for the benefit of Buscis2 (where's 1?). I did own the RTS5s, and they were so musical (the type of component which leads you to just listen to music for hours on end and damn the high end), that I bouhgt a pair of ASL Wave 8s and listened happily to pure music for two years without upgrading a thing, except for cartridges - I left the rest of my high-end stuff in boxes. I had my doubts about the new Athena Technology line, with their more "consumer-oriented" clothing and square black box, but I have to say they sound like quite a jump up in performance from the Sound Dynamics, more of everything, but still with that magic musical ability of theirs: if you check the specs, they're the same electrical design, same crossover, same sensitivity. The new "Teteron" tweeter really is better (I thought the old was quite good), and the bass seems to be more accurate too. There's some kind of Black Magic going on here I don't understand...go listen! For your info, I was using tube amps and Joseph Audio speakers for years, but this line of speakers somehow just gets straight to the heart of the music in a way I've never heard before (of course, this special quality requires experience to identify, I think, but trust your nodding head!), which has freed me from high-end neuroses. I am agog. I must find out more about the designers, maybe e-mail them.
thanks for all the feed back, the collective knowledge of y'all is awesome. "truly curious" was just an expression to convey that i wasn't making any judgement on the answers but had reservations about purchasing items at a place such as best buy. i had come across the athena line in print, saw they were from best buy and dismissed them. i was under the impression(foolishly i gather now)that one couldn't get good get good gear from there. you guys are great. thanks again. oh, and i am running klipsch sf-1's and a $500 onkyo. simple, inexpensive, but pretty good. i was looking to do something a little different with the books and sub. one last, of course you can call me dylan.
Athena is part of API which also makes Energy and Mirage. Athena is their budget line made completely in Asia.

Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 is $328. They are known for their flat response and being neutral. Ascend link
John, I'm almost positive that Athena speakers are produced by Audio Products International Group in Canada. If memory serves, Athena is the new renamed Sound Dynamics. API produces several different speaker lines. One of them includes Energy. I forget the other brand.

Before purchasing my Energy Veritas 2.2s. I had several different conversations with one of the design engineers at API. These boys are VERY serious about their products, and really know their shit. Needless to say, theoretical design criteria, no matter how well thought out, may not necessarily create a good sounding product. But these guys spent over 2 years, non stop, developing the Veritas line.

They subjected these speakers to every possible modification and design change imaginable. Countless hours were spent in many different listening environments tweaking and adjusting. It Shows.

If you get the chance, click on my system. I am using some pretty nice gear. The usual reponse I get from people..... Geez, why are you using Energy speakers? I have learned to not be a "Name Brand Nancy". I let my ears tell me the truth. And I am a music FREAK. And have been all of my life.

I've learned.... GET PAST THE NAME BRAND and listen to the MUSIC. If YBA or Audiomeca started selling their gear in let's say, Best Buy, would it change the design and engineering that went into the product?

I still scratch my head and try to figure out why my RTS-3s sound so damn good @ $200.00 a pair. But ultimately? Who cares!

It's nice to know someone else has ignored the name and instead, is listening to the music.

Happy listening.
I'm with Buscis2. Find yourself some pre-owned Sound Dynamics RTS-3's. Get 4 of them, set your processor to phantom center (no center channel speaker), put a sub in for the movie Boom-Boom, and not only will you have a competent movie rig, it makes for some really good casual listening as well. the RTS-3 is a great little product. It is at its's best if you can put them on good stands, and get them out away from the rear wall. We have them set up in our family room for HT in less than optimal conditions and we are quite happy with them. I have used them a lot for 2 channel listening too. They do turn up from time to time here, but get bought up pretty fast.
Dylan, what a coincidence! I had bought a pair of the same series Klipsches as you are running now (I think the "2"s or "3"s) to test out this whole low-powered tube thing (didn't want to jump in and spend loads of dosh). I have to say that while my heart went out to the Sound Dynamics, I went with my head and so bought the Klipsches. I was never really satisfied with these, though they were good for the money, and I bought a pair of the Sound Dynamics, which I just loved every time I heard them (not for "audiophile" reasons). The Athena Technologies actually go louder than the Klipsches for a given volume, time much better, and are superior in every way. Look forward to an upgrade if you get them. But what I find amazing is that magic sound they have. Personally I no longer believe in the concept of "neutral" which I now think is a coloration (essentially a stripping away of the music from the sounds). If you're going to live with colorations (which will always exist given physical limitations), might as well make them musically-appealing colorations! And besides, the Sound Dynamics did respond to tweaking, and did dazzle me with the usual audiophile crap (for the price).
I was impressed when I auditioned the Monitor Audio Bronze-B1's (about $300 retail). There's a comparison test of several bookshelf speakers at http://www.monitoraudiousa.com/reviews/soundandvision.html (although Athena's are not in the review). The MABs did well.

I ended up buying Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 Anniversary Editions. Truth be told, I haven't used 'em for two channel - although the 8.1's I've heard were pretty damned good, but they're good as HT rears.
john, are you refering to athena asb-2's?
For about $350 (including shipping) you can get yourself a pair of Acoustic Energy 300Cs. These speakers rock and have excellent bass response, rolling off at about 45Hz.
I would look at the Acoustic Energy line they put out a great speaker for the money
Dylan, no I'm refering to the AS-F2s, which I know are too expensive and large, but I'm extrapolating down in size, as the old Sound Dynamics were better known for their RTS3s (bookshelf) than anything else. The AS-B1s get rave reviews for the price as well, though. But, if it's not absolutely necessary to buy bookshelf and still remain within your budget, then I would suggest the floorstanding AS-F1s (which are the counterpart to the Sound Dynamics RTS-5s I own), which sell for approximately $300 and have beautiful bass while retaining all the magic. Today I went to an audio shop (I'm on holiday) to test a theory of mine: that "magic" cannot be planned for. And so I auditioned the upscale Athena Technologies speakers to see if the magic was there, and sure enough, it wasn't. Lesson here: never assume on the strength of one brilliant design that the rest of the line will measure up. The Audition series is the one to get, if you go this route. The AS-B2s will of course give you better bass than the B1s, if that suits you better. Don't worry, the whole line has the "magic." Myself, I can't wait!
i suppose i can chime in on my own post...how 'bout mmg's? for 300 bucks this is definately the way i would go, if for nothing more than shits and giggles.not really bookshelves but they're supposed to be great. i don't have even close to the correct room to set them up. supposedly they're a bit tricky in this matter
Dylan, Well, for Maggies you'll have to start a new thread, you're no longer in "under $300" bookshelf speaker territory. And you're in audiophile territory as well...this way neurosis lies. Nothing can touch the A-Ts for fun factor, for other stuff, sure there's better, but not much in it's price league. For a fairer comparison, I'd personally pick the A-T AS-F2s over the Maggies any day - more bass, more rhythm, more slam, great balance and that "magic" factor - but it depends on what you like. The Maggies are probably quite good at rhythm, and will beat the A-Ts at detail. You've contracted "upgraditis" before you start?
I second Acoustic Energy..
Monitor Audio Bronze B2 can be had for $300.00 new. Very nice full sounding monitors with a wide dynamic range and high quality components. Basic cabinets keep the price down but the electronics are top notch inside.
I have lived with the B&W 303's for a long time now. At one time I actually owned three pair of them. (now down to 2) I bought them when my wife and I were in an apartment while waiting for our home to be built. At this time, I had heard my friend's B&W Nat. 805's mated with a Rel Strata III, and was intrigued by the sound. I never thought bookshelves with a sub could be so good, but his system really wowed me. Being that my budget was significantly more limited than his, I looked at the 303s and ultimately decided that for $300 I would take the plunge.

Out of the box they sound pretty sweet. Natural midrange, non-fatiguing highs, good imaging and decent low end for a speaker of this size. (100-150 hours of break-in helps things along)
My system at the time was both for two-channel and HT so I decided to ad a Rel Strata III to the mix and the 303's were even sweeter.

Since this time, I have moved into our home and set up a dedicated listening room that is strictly two-channel. Now, my first course of action when getting into the house was going to be the purchase of Vandersteen 2ce Sigs or 3A Sigs...but after landing a sweet deal on a pair of Rouge M-120 monoblocks and a Magnum 99 Pre, the 303's would have to stay even longer.

Obviously, the 303's are the "weak" link in my current system, but they in no way embarrass themselves. Job loss has forced me to delay my speaker upgrade for a while longer and it is honestly not that big of a deal for me. Once I do get my Steen's (hmmm...maybe Quattros now) the 303's will still be a part of my family as it moves into my bedroom system.

Oh, and most dealers will probably go down about $20-$30 on the price, making the 303's an even better deal.
very funny john! i actually started my hunt with martin logans and monoblocks in mind....but seriously, magnepan has a set of speakers direct for $299. they hang on the wall. so i'd them consider same topic. no?
oh, by the wat, thanks everybody. lots of food for thought and fun for ears.
Dylan, I'll add one more to the list. Kinima G1 from Zetagcorp. To bad the company went belly up, they did make a great speaker. They do come up often on ebay from dealers selling remaining stock.
I would go used...just on audiogon now...B&W cdm2 se...retailed for #800..asking $350...these are very good speakers...and in my estimation...way better than the cdm line they replaced and the new 600 series...others to look for...Linn Kutans, Castle RIchmonds,...good luck...also...if you can wait and go $5-600...well...thats when things really get interesting...good luck..
It was your thread, Dylan, it was a good topic. As you see, there's lots of life in the under $300 league, including your maggies! Talking about this stuff was almost as much fun as listening to my Athenas! Cheers.
Forget about the new, lower end Epos that goes for 2 and change, I would vouch for a used Epos ES11 between 3-400. That partnered with excellent amplification can give exquisite results for the money spentExcitement is to be had at 3 and a little more, for sure.
B&W 600 series 3 is around $300 with dealer discount. Kevlar is a lighter, faster better driver than the 303's carbon fiber. But it depends or listening preference I suppose.
I like www.creativesound.ca elf 1.5's for $125/pair. Different but in some ways much better than B&W since it is a single driver design.
Cdc: I'm always on the lookout for fun new cheapies, tell me more about the elfs please. Thanks.
They are better than the Mission speakers that come with the Denon UD-M31 mini-system. On Sade's "Is it a crime" they have outstanding balance between cymbals and sax. The Tang-Band W3-871's are MUCH flatter than any Cain&Cain etc. single driver speaker recently reviewed in Stereophile. Like +/-2dB from 100 to 10K. +/-3dB from 10k to 20k.
On studio mixed music, B&W is very good but on acoustic music the "rightness" of these single driver speakers is way better than B&W. You loose high volume levels since they are paper and maybe dynamic punch too vs. B&W.
I spoke with the designer and he said these $125 ELF 1.5's are very close in performance to his JordanJX92's which he also did a design. Maybe in some ways better since the Jordans have a rising response curve and can get bright. ALl I can say is a lot of people can get unhappy with even $2,000 speakers but if you can live with lower volume levels and limited bass (I put mine on the mantle up against the wall so bass is good to 40hz) they make me question why spend more/ do I really need to.
NOTE: the second driver is only to give bass boost with no phase shifts etc. So this is a TRUE single driver design.
Swan Diva M200 - comes with 36 watts/ch built in - good for computer as well - and looks good too for $250 online.
I liked the Athena AS-B1 the best - better than bigger brothers - had prettier mid sound. Mate it with a sony amp sa-wm500 (eBay $150), and you have a nice and full sound. I was mesmerized to hear female voices on the setup. Try to hear this combo - made me want to dance the night away - good for the exercise room.
Gonglee, I've been an Athena convert for a long time, it's that dance factor which gets to me: it helps me forget about all that audiophile crap which is 70% worry and analysis and 30% enjoyment. With the Athenas, 100% pure enjoyment, they are the best I've heard at timing, and they are quite good at the other audiophile crap! Cdc, I've been meaning to experiment with single-driver stuff ever since I bought my Wave 8s, do the ELF 1.5s have a website, or any reviews with info? I've never heard of them. And I've never personally liked the B$W sound, though their build quality is tops: I always hear an upper midrange hardening, though the latest line seems better in this regard.
Johnnantis here is the site:
They used to be $64.00 + $58 for two cabinets = $122.00
I don't know if they have cabinets anymore.

I guess the word I was struggling to find was "natural".

That is why they have a satisfying sound. You can get a $2,000 speaker with bass, detail, and dynamic range but if it does not sound natural, I can't relax and listen to the music.
i will go used ,buy a late 80's B&w dm220i or dm110i . old b&w speakers are really sounds sweet . they are under 200 at today's market .
the epos els 3 are phenomenal for the price. they bettered von schweikert VR1s in our listening tests...
Sure does:
ling but it's $400

and this
Ling II

and this
click on RAW series and RAW-1F
I bought a pair of Ascend CBM 170s after listening to the Lings and the Ascends side by side about 3 weeks ago with another listener on material all familiar to me on my reference system.

Neither is really the greatest thing since sliced bread compared to stuff frequently discussed here on this forum. The Ascends are priced at 328 a pair.