Help! How bad (or good) are my Cambridge Soundworks M80's - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Got these four years ago and I want to upgrade, but I would like to know the level that i am upgrading from.
The M80's are a 3 way, 8 inch woofer, 3 1/2 midrange (both polymer drivers) with a 3/4 natural fiber tweeter. They were my first pair of speakers and I was pleased with them, however after hearing some Lynns (majik), Usher, Paradigm, and Martin Logans, they just dont cut it (DuH) I know I want to upgrade but I would like to know where these fall. Are they good speakers for 300 bucks or not? To me they seem a little congested, warm, with a lower midranged bumb, but I never listen to them in direct comparison with anything else. Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 08:08 AM
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Those are pretty good bookshelf speakers from Cambridge Soundworks. I would say they are similar to the B&W 602s3. They do have a bit of an upper bass bloom and a laid back tweeter if I recall correctly. (whereas the 602s3 had a more forward tweeter)

The speakers you listened to are certainly different and many times the brain can be fooled into thinking that different = better. I'm not saying that you were fooled, I just want you to make sure you know the distinction.

Placement of your listening position within the room can make a very large difference in the sound quality that you perceive. Additionally, the placement of the speakers with respect to the wall behind them, the side walls, and the corners of the room make a remarkable difference to the sound quality and can attribute to things like "bass bloom" "sloppy bass".

Before you give up on your speakers, try experimenting with putting your listening position at 38% of the length from either the front or rear wall, and keep the speakers at least 3 feet from any room wall. Many times, a compromised setup of the speakers or listening position will "break" a speaker in terms of sound quality.

Nevertheless, even if you decide to give up on the M80s, I would not purchase the next speaker unless you can test it within your room in the same locations. The new speaker could sound 100x better in the dealer's room, but if it doesn't carry that improvement to your home, it is a worthless expenditure of money and quite a disappointment that you simply do not need.
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post #3 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 12:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think where I feel that I am lacking the most is in soundstage. It just doesn't seem that tangible to me... As for placement. Yeah, I know, unfortunately I am extremely limited in my placement and i am way to close to the walls which I am sure is giving me some of the bass bloom you were talking about.
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post #4 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonomega View Post

..............and a laid back tweeter if I recall correctly.

I agree. VERY laid-back. I tried these speakers and found them to be extremely dull compared to the KEF Q series speakers I had at the time. Of course, the KEFs are considered bright by most people. But I found the CSWs very inarticulate on the high-end; perhaps the least articulate of all the many speakers I was auditioning at the time. That said, as jonomega points out, auditioning different speakers, briefly, can be deceiving, especially in a different environment than your own. But I would be pretty confident in assuming that you found the other speakers you heard to be considerably more articulate.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly), CSW has gone to a new metal-dome tweeter on their Newtons. And I suspect they sound completely different, now.

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post #5 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 02:12 PM
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I started with Cambridge Sound Works, and I found that they were very decent speakers for the price. You can get much better, but you will typically have to pay far more to do so, and as stated above you will also have to make certain to audition the speakers in your own room and also make sure to set them up properly to get the most out of them. Sound treatments might also be needed if your room has too many flaws, though many people don't want to go to that extreme.

I never auditioned your particular model, so I cannot comment specifically about the M80. I started with the "Tower" and the "Center Stage" before moving on to B&W CDSM-E SEs and a Sunfire Truesub. I have found that combination to have improved upon the CSW towers/sub combination, but it did cost me a bit more, and the B&Ws definitely needed a more powerful amp than the CSWs.

Read about the Sony Rootkit fiasco. http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/14...stomer-te.html
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post #6 of 20 Old 07-25-2008, 06:17 PM
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I have tried most of the speakers CSW offers (M80s, M60s, T200, MC200, MC300, MC400, Model Six). I agree, the M80s have a laid back sound. I love mine with certain types of music but I did not like them for home theather duty. I think the M60s have a very different sound with more extended highs. I just picked up a pair from their clearance outlet for my bedroom system and I think they sound even better than the M80s when paired with a small sub. The model six speakers CSW offers also have a different sound and are excellent. Don't be fooled by the low price, you might like them. Overall, I don't think you can do much better than CSW for the price. I also have and quite like some Ascend Acoustics offerings. I have the CBM-170 SE and Sierra-1 speakers. I think they are also an excellent value and are very accurate like CSW products and might be a good place to start if you want to try something different without speanding a fortune, as they do offer an in home trial period. I am sure their are alot of other brands folks have tried that are just as good. I just thought I would share my opinion and experience. One thing I learned early on in this hobby was to listen for myself and go with what I like.
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post #7 of 20 Old 07-26-2008, 06:55 AM - Thread Starter
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thanks for the replys yall. Maybe some of what I am noticing it the laid back tweeter.

Does anyone know if there are any measurements for these speakers out there?
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post #8 of 20 Old 07-26-2008, 08:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wookiered View Post

thanks for the replys yall. Maybe some of what I am noticing it the laid back tweeter.

Does anyone know if there are any measurements for these speakers out there?

I couldn't find any measurements, but there seems to be a mixed opinion about the sound quality. It is interesting that several of us here felt the treble was laid back and the bass somewhat boomy, while some "reviews" claimed the opposite.

While I have found bass to be mostly related to room placement, room size, listener position, the treble is apt to either really be laid back, there may be a not-quite-so-good engineered crossover into the tweeter, or the tweeter lacks dispersion, most likely in the vertical axis.

I listened to the M80s when standing up, (they were on stands), and sitting down the tweeter axis was still below my ears. I felt that they were still laid back in the highs, although the highs did increase as my ears approached the tweeter axis. I have found some speakers have very poor vertical dispersion.

Can you play some music with emphasis on cymbals and go about 3' in front of the speakers while the cymbals are going and start from standing and eventually crouching so that your ear "sweeps" from above the tweeter to below the tweeter axis. See if there is a height were the cymbals just "click in" and sound more realistic rather than dull and lifeless.

For boomy bass, you could try pulling the speaker away from the wall behind (temporarily if need be) up to 3-4' away to see if the boominess changes in character. If it does then you know that the problem is at least due to the SBIR between the speaker and the wall behind it.

For soundstage, you may want to play around with the toe-in angle of the speakers (facing straight out or somewhat towards your ears). Also, spacing the speakers apart (changing this distance) has an effect on the width of the stage (obviously?) so this is worthy to try.
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post #9 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 05:36 AM - Thread Starter
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I am also going to upgrade to seperates, probably emotiva, will this make a difference in the image, soundstage, and coherence of my music? I am currently using a onkyo 503. Basically there most basic reciever from 4 years ago. its only 75 watts per channel. I am hoping that stepping up to a lot more power will make a difference.
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post #10 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 05:54 AM
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Don't forget how much difference the room itself makes to the sound of the speakers. Both placement and proper acoustic treatment are really important. you could take the best speakers going and put them in a crummy, untreated room and you get crummy sound.
Try maximizing those factors and see what difference it makes with what you have first then go from there, whatever you DO get will sound that much better as well.

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post #11 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 07:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wookiered View Post

I am also going to upgrade to seperates, probably emotiva, will this make a difference in the image, soundstage, and coherence of my music? I am currently using a onkyo 503. Basically there most basic reciever from 4 years ago. its only 75 watts per channel. I am hoping that stepping up to a lot more power will make a difference.

It won't just be the power. The pre-amp stage will/should offer up some gains in the areas you listed.

To your original question, those speakers were nice and warm sounding. Easy to listen to for a long time, similar to the Advents from 15 years ago. Good electronics should let 'em shine.
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post #12 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonomega View Post

Can you play some music with emphasis on cymbals and go about 3' in front of the speakers while the cymbals are going and start from standing and eventually crouching so that your ear "sweeps" from above the tweeter to below the tweeter axis. See if there is a height were the cymbals just "click in" and sound more realistic rather than dull and lifeless.

You can hear cymbals with these speakers?

"All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it."
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post #13 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by sivadselim View Post

You can hear cymbals with these speakers?

CSW has all the frequencies covered. Even the ones we hear.
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post #14 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wookiered View Post

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think where I feel that I am lacking the most is in soundstage. It just doesn't seem that tangible to me... As for placement. Yeah, I know, unfortunately I am extremely limited in my placement and i am way to close to the walls which I am sure is giving me some of the bass bloom you were talking about.

If you're extremely limited now and that lack of flexibility is compromising your present speakers, then buying 'better' speakers will only result in the same compromises albeit with similar/different tradeoffs. The main thing you need to upgrade is the ability to move speakers around more and until you can pull that off...

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post #15 of 20 Old 07-30-2008, 10:40 AM
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Speakers are based on these three axis: 1) Crossover, 2) Cabinet Geometry and 3) Drivers. Comparing the CSW to those others is not fair as far as price point. Upgrading is infectious so considered yourself warned. Make sure on your pre/pro you have all the formats and hdmi1.3a.
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post #16 of 20 Old 08-01-2008, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
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How would these compare to the famous budget speakers, you know. PSB Alpha B1, Usher 520, etc... I just wonder if they are in the same ball park or not. If not, thats fine, but if so, why don't more people talk about them? Or CSW in general?
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post #17 of 20 Old 08-17-2008, 10:32 AM
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I would definitely recommend trying them out with a higher powered amp. first. The M80s can take a lot of juice and like to be kicked hard.

I find some the comments in this thread interesting as I actually upgraded to the M80s back in February having purchased them from another forum member. I upgraded from CSW MC300s, which had 1" tweeters, to the M80s, which have the 3/4th" tweeter, and the first thing I noticed was how much more pronounced the high sounds were such as cymbals. I currently have two of them paired to a Marantz amp running in pure-direct and the only term I'd use for them is neutral. They are each on B&W speaker stands filled with sand and about 2' from the wall and probably 10-12' apart angled at the listening position. They definitely aren't boomy, and I am continually pleased with how accurate they do sound. They can really hit the low notes when called upon as well. Like I said, try them out with some new electronics and try moving them around a bit as others have suggested. If you have the M80s setup properly I don't think you'll be missing out on much, and will save yourself the $$ in the process.
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post #18 of 20 Old 08-17-2008, 11:39 AM
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I haven't heard the CSW, but from the description, I have a similar reaction to my PSB Alphas; nothing objectionable, really, except the lack of relative imaging and soundstage.

Not exciting. Not 'real'. Flat. boxy. Competent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wookiered View Post

How would these compare to the famous budget speakers, you know. PSB Alpha B1, Usher 520, etc... I just wonder if they are in the same ball park or not. If not, thats fine, but if so, why don't more people talk about them? Or CSW in general?

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post #19 of 20 Old 08-17-2008, 01:13 PM
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your speakers are fine.

One shall stand... One Shall Fall... - Optimus Prime
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post #20 of 20 Old 08-28-2008, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jb01 View Post

I would definitely recommend trying them out with a higher powered amp. first. The M80s can take a lot of juice and like to be kicked hard.

I find some the comments in this thread interesting as I actually upgraded to the M80s back in February having purchased them from another forum member. I upgraded from CSW MC300s, which had 1" tweeters, to the M80s, which have the 3/4th" tweeter, and the first thing I noticed was how much more pronounced the high sounds were such as cymbals. I currently have two of them paired to a Marantz amp running in pure-direct and the only term I'd use for them is neutral. They are each on B&W speaker stands filled with sand and about 2' from the wall and probably 10-12' apart angled at the listening position. They definitely aren't boomy, and I am continually pleased with how accurate they do sound. They can really hit the low notes when called upon as well. Like I said, try them out with some new electronics and try moving them around a bit as others have suggested. If you have the M80s setup properly I don't think you'll be missing out on much, and will save yourself the $$ in the process.

You wouldn't happen to be JeremyB on other sites, would you? I think I've seen someone of your really old posts. If you are, are you still using the P200/P500 combo? How's that working? I use a P205 but have been thinking about adding a P500 as they're being clearanced for $400 right now.

About the original poster's question and the M80s in general, I really like mine. I do know what you're talking about when you say they can sound congested but I've found that placement is a huge factor with these speakers, more so than any others I've owned (dual rear ports are what causes this I'm sure). The highs as another poster said have a really limited stage, they need to be very close to your ears. I never listen to mine seriously unless I'm sitting down where I should be. The M60 as mentioned has a much broader high range and isn't as dependent on vertical placement (I have the MC400 which uses the same tweeter on top of a high entertainment center and it sounds more or less the same when I'm standing up as when I'm sitting down). However, I do think the M80 has more detail when the tweeter is at ear height.

I use the Onkyo 502 with my M80s, the model from the year before yours. It does seem to to alright but there are times I think it's struggling a little bit. I'm not in a rush to go out and get a new receiver because of this because I do think 90% of the time it's adequate, but my next one will be higher powered (or at least have preouts so I can use a power amp). Again though, I think placement is the biggest factor with these speakers.

As far as how the M80s hold up against other speakers at it's price point, I think they do well. I've heard them up against Paradigm Monitor line (listened to Atoms, Minis, and Monitors) within a day of each other and I think they are pretty comparable, give or take a little. I ended up going with the M80s because I got them used for a very good price, but if I was paying full it would have been a tough decision (I was originally comparing M50s with Atoms as that was stretching my budget already, and would take the Atoms out of these two, but I'm not a fan of M50s at all).

Good luck though, I do think these can be really nice speakers when placed right.

Edit: one more thing, have you replaced the jumpers with speaker wire or just done biwiring? Replacing the jumpers made a lot of the congestion you were talking about go away for me. I'm pretty sure they're cheap....using speaker wire should be better.
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