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I would try the various wide baffle dynamic speakers such as the Tannoy Prestige series already mentioned, Devore O series, Audio Note, Harbeth and ATC, Trnner and Freidl RA.
You could also try Martin Logan hybrids (which are much better today than they used to be in terms of integrating the dynamic woofer with the panel).
It largely depends on your budget and your taste.
A single driver speaker such as the Quads, Soundlabs, King Sounds speakers all have a certain spooky level of clarity that is difficult to approach. Some being single drivers they also possess a level of coherence that is rarely matched with dynamic cone speakers. On the other hand I never really get a sense of dynamic impact that instruments possess in life nor a "breath of life" sensation. They sort of present a homogeneous sound across albums. It's great sound it's just rarely holds my attention for very long. Sameness leads me to bordedom from them.
But cabinets will always add a degree of cabinet resonance unless you can really get the positioned right. HE though can combat that to a large degree because the sound (like those from horns) seem to leap from the cabinet pushing away the cabinet and generating that exciting sound that you get.
If you have a bigger room and more money and can take a big speaker then the big Horns are probably my first choice. If you have a normal sized room and a normal sized budget I would look to the speakers I mentioned above. The Tannoy Kensington SE(or above), DeVore O/96, and Audio Note E would be the primary targets.
I am on my second Audio Note E and had their J and K models previously. The E is a bit more attractive (objectively) because it is much less expensive, more sensitive (dynamic) and just as good as some of the more expensive options like the Harbeth 40.1 or 40.2 or DeVore O93/096.
The modest horns do have a jump factor but the problem with some of them is horn shout that can be fatiguing in the treble rather quickly.
So the trick is finding something that is relatively high efficiency with the dynamic jump factor that doesn't have horn shout and doesn't cost a killer amount of money. The AN E and J come in about 10 versions starting at $3900 and $2900 which in this hi-fi world isn't completely insane and they will hang in with any 2 way I've heard from anyone else at any price. I'd spend a bit more than the basic models as the basic models only come in black ash while you have 20 finish models for the next one up.
But even the basic AN J/D at $2900 does very well even under show conditions.
I would start with the least expensive option. I can for example rave a lot about the Trenner and Freidl RA but it's $25,000US plus and while I like the Harbeths they too are in the $14k range. It starts getting crazy fast. Even the Tannoy Kensington is over $10k. You might like all of these more of course but the $2900 Audio Note J/D is difficult to beat.
They are an interesting design concept and should image well. I really wanted to like these speakers because I love how they look with the natural wood finish, narrow baffle, and skinny stands.
But then I found out that wide-bander is a Fountek FE85 which you can buy for $12 on Parts Express. I know, price isn't everything. I found some measurements of this driver, and they aren't horrible but they are commensurate with the price point:
I eventually did find a review with measurements:
The frequency response and distortion measurements are shown below. There's a massive smile shape to the on-axis frequency response with bass and treble about 10dB higher than the midrange. Even with no toe-in the treble is about 5dB too high. And then there is that huge mid-bass hump combined with high distortion in the bass. It's a classic boom-sizzle response that may be attention grabbing but I can't imagine living with it.
Strangely, the measurements of the finished speaker are considerably worse than the measurements of the FE85 on a test baffle posted by the DIY'er above. That made me question the skill of the designer. Another thing that made me question the designer is the use of "electromechanical resonators", Bybee Quantum Purifiers, and Stein Music zobels in the SE and SE+ versions.
Finally, there is the price. When I first heard of these speakers two or three years ago, they were about $3k, which is kind of pricey considering the drivers but maybe worth it considering the woodwork. By last year the price was up to $3600. Now it's $4700 without stands. The W5 SE with stands is $6500 but supposedly worth the money over the W5 because the tuning and crossover layout is improved. Hopefully the changes tame the FR but who knows? The W5 SE+ is $10k with stands, which is in rarefied air for small standmounts, costing more than Kef Ref 1s, Dynaudio C1 Platinums, Joseph Pulsars, Focal Sopra 1s, etc. And I don't think it holds a candle to those speakers.
I've never heard any of Boenicke's spkrs. in person. But recently I thought I was gonna need new spkrs. due to a problem with the spkrs. I've had for decades, and was checking lottsa youtube demos out.
Naturally I know listening to youtube demos via a USB dac and phones is hardly definitive, but you do get some idea of how spkrs. sound with videos from certain sites/guys like Brueninger, Stereodesk, Audio Prana, Miles Astor because their recordings are consistent.
Check out the sound of these Boenickes. Not bad IMO, but of course its only a few excerpts. If you're interested in hearing more just type "Boenicke speakers" in the youtube search. You can hear their bigger spkrs.
I also like checking out systems via YouTube, but it can be hard to judge the sound of a system that way because recording is an art and some people are much better than others at capturing the original sound. Fred Crane (AudioPrana/Stereodesk) is one of the people who seem to do a very good job of capturing the sound of a system in a room, where you can clearly hear strengths and weaknesses in the system, and even separate them from the sound of the room. In comparison, Peter Breuninger's videos are about as good as Forrest Gump fumbling with a 1990s VHS camcorder.
I've watched a bunch of different videos of the Boenicke W5 and the one that impressed me the most is here:
In the above video, they sound well balanced. perhaps due to the unusual microphone placement well off-axis and close-up. None of the other W5 videos I've heard sound good.
The YouTube clip that you posted has a very obvious and distracting bass peak throughout, piano didn't sound good, the vocalist in the first bossa nova track and Sting sound hollow, the cello is devoid of any body, and the only part of it that sounded reasonably good to me is the acoustic guitar piece from about 17:00 to 18:30.
For comparison, here is another small speaker in the same room:
There is still some room coloration there, but on the whole it sounds A LOT better to me. Fred also has a video of the expensive Kii 3 active speakers in the same room which sounds a lot better than the Boenicke W5.
I think the following video shows off the W5 bit better:
In that video you hear a lot more room coloration because the room is quite live, but the speakers seem better balanced. In particular, the bass peak is less pronounced. But the midrange is still weak and there is still a thin, hollow coloration.
One more video of the W5 from AudioPrana:
That system sounds particularly bad to me, and if I was the owner, considering how much money is tied up in it, I would be very embarrassed.
I wouldn't pay that price for the top Boenicke 5. But disagree with some of your comments, such as "....cello lacked body." Not to my ears, and I lived with a cellist for 4 years. I liked the piano sound better on the Trenner/Friedl demo, but have no idea how much was due to the recordings, nor do you unless you own 'em.
My point about Brueninger (and the others mentioned) was not how great their recordings are, its that they are consistent. That allows some comparison, as opposed to different recording sound for different demos.
Re: comparing speakers -- Listening to youtube videos is obviously just wetting your whistle. The two alto players in the Boenicke demos (Desmond and maybe Sonny Stitt) sounded pretty realistic, but excepting the Stevie Wonder I don't own any of the recordings played in the videos. Are you familiar with the recordings used in the Boenicke demos?
I think you'd need to hear the same recordings/source/amp/pre in the same room to form better judgements - even from youtube videos. I do like the way those Trenner/Friedl speakers sounded on the clip you linked.
Re: measurements --
You're talking to the wrong guy :-) The spkrs. I've owned (and obviously liked) for decades are far from measurement champs and certainly have faults, but lots of speakers I've heard in person that measure considerably better have sounded much less desirable *to me*.
If I was gonna buy new monitor spkrs. I'd wanna audition both the Boenicke and Trenner & Friedl among others. The cost of the top Boenicke WE 5 does put me off. I'd want better for that money.
There were some cuts that were more favorable to these speakers and some that were worse. I'm familiar with maybe half of the material in that demo. But like you said, I'd need to hear the same recordings and same partnering components in the same room to form a better judgement.
I agree that listening to YouTube videos of audio systems is just "wetting your whistle". I would never rule out, or buy, a pair speakers based on a YouTube video alone. But in this case, the W5 already has a couple of strikes against it (IMHO) in the form of poor measured performance, use of cheap drivers, and high priced upgrades of questionable merit. Considering those points along with the mostly unimpressive YouTube sound (IMHO), I'm not interesting in considering it further.
It's a shame though, because I really like the design concept, and love the look of these speakers.
You could always try an audio show. In HK I am fortunate that dealers basically take out a floor in a large building and on each floor you can hear several different companies. In the States and Canada you go to a dealer but then have to drive an hour to get to the next dealer. In a day you cover 2 dealers - here I can cover 15 dealers in one day. All of them in the same building with the same constructed rooms of similar size.
Youtube videos have problems of course from the quality of the camera being used to unfamiliar rooms. The echo you hear in some videos you may not at all hear when you are sitting in the room.
Now I have two young kids and getting away for a weekend on my own is hard.
Most YouTube videos of audio systems don't do much for me, but Fred Crane of AudioPrana/Stereodesk does good ones.
Can't say that I have although I have heard speakers in China that look an awful lot the same.
I will be going to the California Audio Show this summer - perhaps they will exhibit.
" Can't say that I have although I have heard speakers in China that look an awful lot the same."
Was that just a general impresssion of the exterior or did the Chinese speakers also have the rather unique interior construction as well?
BTW, a pair is reviewed in the current Hi-Fi News. Subjectively pretty good but the measurements of frequency response produced a graph looking like a ride at Disneyland. How about FR + or - 14dB? Pair matching + or - 4.7dB? I know that you can't tell how a speakers sounds from measurements but seeing these ones I wouldn't want to start from there.
The problem is that no one can audition everything. It's probably a BIG reason Stereophile has the min number of dealers policy because there are simply way too many companies out there and there has to be a weeding process. In other words can the company actually remain established such that they will be around say in 4 years should you need warranty work?
And this is important because sound should not be the ONLY consideration when buying gear. Dealer and manufacturer support, resale value (or even the ability to sell them at all), build quality, aesthetics, ease of drive are just some of the reasons to include in the buying process.
I live in Hong Kong - there are a lot of things I can review but they are not available in the US or Canada or even the UK so what's the point? I think I was the first person to review Line Magnetic but they have a US importer. Still at the time they were an unknown.
The Chinese speakers look similar but I have not seen the inside.
The poorer measurements don't necessarily put me off - IMO SET amps sound the best and without equal and they measure the worst.
Pair matching is important if you want the left speaker to sound like the right speaker.
I have never really liked speakers with side firing woofers - the fancy explanations never really seem to work very well when I hear them. I have liked a few like Gallo and Studio Electric that worked but neither I would call integration champs.
Yes, agree with all you say except that the Boenicke measurements are so eccentric that, as I said, I wouldn't start from there i.e I wouldn't go out of my way to hear a pair. However, as you imply, I could be missing out on something.
Well I would not start with the measurements or go out of my way to hear them either. With so-so measuring gear I would rather the overall market decide.
As you may know I own Audio Note E speakers and before that Js and before that K's. I have been auditioning speakers for 25 years and this sound does it for me - but the measurements certainly wouldn't sway me to go out of my way to listen either. Unlike Boenicke though there is a very long track record of raves in the press that they should be worth going out of one's way - problem is with so-so measurements how does one keep that inherent bias out of the audition. When you read something and conclude "well it will be coloured or has X or Y issue" you will hear those things being predisposed to expect them. Expectation bias. Yet I don't see any of the self proclaimed objectivists running any DBTs to be sure.
It's one of the reasons I bought the great measuring LS-50 so I can crosscheck against an industry standard "good measuring" loudspeaker.
Still for around $3900-$4500 I would take the AN J/D and J/Lx as my standard to judge everything else off of. I did for 13 years. So the first questions I ask of the challenger would be:
Does it sound as good?
Is it as easy to drive?
Is it as full range - in terms of bass and dynamics?
Will it play all the genres of music in my collection as well or only some?
What will the resale value be when I sell it (and how difficult will it be to sell if I sell). A relative no name brand is harder to get rid of.
I generally prefer to stick to established entities and I think the press probably should cover the brands who have earned their place in the market over the new kid on the block vying for a seat at the table. Some company that comes along selling $10k+ products without any track record.
Since the thread has a number of youtube videos of speakers I think my Trust AN J variant does quite well.
Take a look at the SoundQuest horns.A good friend heard them and was highly impressed.
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