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Old 01-26-2009, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
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EMP vs TSC Hands on

I've read numerous posts recommending, reviewing (or dogging out) a product and it seems more often than not, it's done on a stand alone basis. Though I didn't intent for it to work out this way, I thought I'd take some time to share with you AVS Nutz, my hands on experience with products and customer support of these two companies. This is based on my purchase experience with each of them. This is going to be long winded so I'll give a short sum up rating for each one, so if you want to skip the rest you can be on your way.

These upgrade my bedroom system which was a JBL CS 6100 5.1. My receiver is an Onkyo TX-sr505 75wpc x 7. I was not intent on matching the sound of my Mirage OMD-28s and OMD-C2 center with OMD-15 and Omni 350 surrounds and rears that I have downstairs. I did want nice sound though to support my Jazz oriented listening tastes so given the holiday sale, I ordered, and intended to keep, the following from TSC:

Products:

TSC:
1 pair of TST3 Towers
1 TSC2 Center
I pair P6 Bookshelves
Sub is from the JBL CS 6100 10 150w RMS 41lbs

There were issues with the TST3's which I attempted to get resolved and ended up returning along with the bookshelves. I then purchased the EMP:

HTP-351T system:
1 pair of EF30T Tower Speakers
1 pair of EF30 Bookshelf Speakers
1 EF30C Center Channel Speaker
1 E10s Powered Subwoofer

Short story ratings:

Packaging
Advantage EMP for the large towers.
Tie for the bookshelves and center.

Build quality (cabinets, finish)
Tie

Aesthetics
Clear edge to TSC

Sound
Clear edge to EMP

Customer Service
When things go as planned - edge to EMP based on being able to easily call someone.
When there is problem, a HUGE edge goes to EMP.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All above factors considered, the overall edge goes to EMP.

At EMP's full price, I might consider rolling the dice, order from TSC and hope there are no problems to resolve. They do offer good value. This assumes that TSC is having a sale also. If neither is on sale, I'd wait and hope that the EMPs go on sale first.

I would in all likelihood not buy either at full price. I MIGHT consider the EMPs at full price, however, if the aesthetics were improved. The sound is just excellent ! I would DEFINITELY buy the EMP bookshelves at full price.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ok, if you want the long version here goes:

Packaging
ALL of the styrofoam packing inside the double boxed TSC TST3s was either cracked all the way through or totally shredded with the exception of a flat panel that ran along side each speaker. The top and bottom originally had fitted peaces. I think there was other packing but I could not identify it's original position or shape given that it was totally shredded. The speakers were moving around inside their boxes as a result. One of the speakers arrived with non functioning woofers. TSC was aware of this issue but their stated efforts to correct it obviously did me no good.

The bookshelves and center packing was made from a different, more pliable fitted material and arrived fully intact.

The EMP towers were TRIPLE boxed. All foam packing and corner bracing was supplemented with styrofoam packing peanuts. The bookshelves and sub were packed with fitted styrofoam and all arrived fully intact. Not a single scratch.

Packaging
Big advantage EMP for the large towers.
Tie for the bookshelves and center

Build quality (cabinets, finish)
I've read complaints about TSCs vinyl black ash finish being rough on some of its speakers. I did not find that to be the case. The vinyl fit smoothly with no buckles or rough edges. The EMPs were just a bit better finished but not enough to give them any real edge. Note: My Mirage Omni 350's are finished in vinyl and are slightly less well done as either of these offerings.

The cabinets were solid feeling all around, with a firm (not hollow) well constructed feel. The TSC center was particularly robust in it's construction feel weighing in at 22 ¼ pounds. I thought the EMP sub was a little light at 30lbs but on close inspection, it is well put together with tight seams and solid feeling control knobs.

Build quality (cabinets, finish)
Tie

Aesthetics
The TSC TST3s have a plastic bezel that outlines the mid and tweeter array area on the top, front-facing surface of the speaker. The TC2 center had the same look with the same type plastic bezel across its face. In both instances, the bezels were flush fit with the cabinet and gave it a curved look when viewed from the front. This gave them a more finished look as well as a more integrated matching look among the fronts. The glass tops on the towers added a measure of class' to the overall look. The bookshelves were plain boxes, square edges, black with a grill. Nothing notable.

This is not EMPs strong suit. The towers are large, squarish boxes with a non flush fitted grill top three fifths in front front. The grills also could fit a bit tighter, they come loose a bit too easily. The center and bookshelves echo the plain Jane look of the towers. Notable however are the wooden bases for the towers in black lacquer. They do dress them up a bit. Perhaps a matching black lacquer cap all around would help the look a great deal.

Aesthetics
Clear edge to TSC

Sound
As mentioned, one of the TSC towers was crippled with non functioning woofers however, with crossovers set at 60hz and subwoofers deployed, I think the comparison is fair particularly considering the areas that TSC was weaker against EMP's strengths. Audyssey was run as part of the setup process for each system.

I felt the TSC setup sounded pretty good, for the money. The set up overall had a nice full sound, with a somewhat pronounced mid range that seemed to subside as I listened to them more. I guess my ears were breaking in'. The high end was just a bit brittle I guess you could say. This was a bit of a paradox because I also thought the highs should be more up front and I fiddled with the tone controls a bit. The center channel initially had a distinct sizzling' sound as it reproduced voices, especially females. I did hook it up right off my front doorstep (20 degrees that day) and the sizzle subsided with more playing time. For home theater, the dialog was clear and on the BOLD side. You didn't miss a word yet the center did not overwhelm the action with the big TST3s doing left and right channel duty. When the action turned to bullets and bombs, the sound was robust and easily managed to fill the bedroom.

I like to listen to music (mostly Jazz) in All Channel Stereo mode sitting in the sweet spot with the rears up just enough to add ambiance'. Highs from the bookshelves were crisp and the midrange was just a bit pronounced with a subtle blaring' effect. I also was constantly adjusting the rear levels to get the right feeling of depth that I was looking for. I couldn't seem to get them dialed in at a setting that would work at all volume levels. Overall, the setup sounded good with adequate dynamics and a wide enough sound field, again for what I paid.

The TSC setup was returned given the issues I encountered attempting to get the non functioning woofer problem resolved. See the customer service section.

You never know when misfortune turns circumstance in your favor. Am I ever glad I bought the EMP's. I hooked them up, ran cal and put on one of my favorite cuts (Charlie Haden - American Dreams). Every pluck of the contra-bass, every strike of every piano key, all the instruments substantially more distinct in their sound quality and reproduction. The improvement in detail, depth of sound field, and overall integration was way beyond what I expected. Oh, those bookshelves, my oh my those rear bookshelves. Those puppies just sounded way too big for their size. the range was surprising as I could clearly and with good volume hear that big contra-bass authoritatively laying the foundation for the rest of the instruments that were also being articulated accurately with a clarity that was a joy to listen to. And listen I did for about two hours straight.

My GFs mom played piano and was a jazz singer which went a long way in paying for her education. Thus, my GF has grown up with golden ears. I told her to take a listen and she ended up listening for a couple of hours the next day. She said WOW, you can hear everything, all the instruments all at once and they sound real, like they are in the room with you. I think that says it all.

Dialog was also clear and articulate for HT and TV watching. Sound effects from the rears were very clear and pans from front to back and left to right are outstanding. The overall sound field produced for the HT experience was very realistic and really brought the soundtrack to life. I was watching Appaloosa which has a lot of dialog and very quick but pretty violent gunfights. It was a delight to watch with the EMPs very ably delivering all of the action.

Sound
Clear edge to EMP for a more refined' sound
BIG edge to EMP for bookshelves
EMP put their effort/money into the sound quality - right where it counts.


Customer Service
I bought several TSC products during their sale. Two setups, one each for my nephew (TST2s and LCR3 package) and an all bookshelf and 8in sub package for my brother. There was one problem where I left off the word East from my brothers address. I went back through Amazon to try and change it about 45 minutes after I placed the order. I was given the opportunity to change the order, which resulted in an email being sent back to TSC. That email resulted in no acknowledgement and no change to the addressing information I had sent. I had to work this out with Fedex later. People make mistakes, there should be a means to correct them and this process failed to do that. All other orders to my relatives arrived intact with no problems. They had a Merry Christmas (all men should have toys at Christmas).

So, I decided to buy the flagship TST3s and P6 surrounds for myself. As mentioned, the towers arrived poorly packaged and one was damaged. I contacted Nick on Friday December 19th. He stated that he would have someone come out Monday the 22nd to pick up or swap out the defective unit. I'm still not sure what was supposed to happen. Monday, no show no call. Same for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday's a holiday but nothing on the 26th. Nothing the following 3 day week before New Years either. So by January 2nd, I'd pretty much have had it and sent an email to Nick informing him that I prefer to exercise my money back option. That prompted a call from Dave who apologized, said he and Nick got their signals crossed. He apologized some more and said that it was his fault and that I fell off his radar screen and then suggested that I was being extreme for wanting to return them. Well, that got me going a bit and I reminded him in no uncertain terms that TSC DOES have a money back return policy. What's extreme about asking for your money back ?

Ok, he sends me my return shipping label, it takes a week for the speakers to get back to TSC. I wait another week after their arrival back at TSC and drop Nick an email reminding him that I am due a refund. It took two more days before that money appeared in my account. 3 weeks after reporting the issue it gets resolved. You have to stay on them to get the process to keep moving.

I did have an issue with the EMPs as well. The cabinets weren't exactly what I thought I was getting. I was suppose to receive upgraded models from their Destination Audio sister company with pretty much the same products. I did not receive the cabinets with gloss caps. Their shipping dept had made an error. Within an hour after reporting this, I was given a choice to return or get a partial refund. I took the partial refund and the issue was fixed in a matter of hours when the refund was returned to my PayPal account. I am satisfied with how it was handled.

I will close this section with a quote from one of my favorite bosses. The first day I went to work for him, he called me into his office and told me I would rather have a stallion that I have to hold back than a mule I have to kick in the ass in order to get him to do anything. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to see which one of these customer service teams represents the stallion.

Customer Service
When things go as planned - edge to EMP based on being able to easily call someone.
When there is problem, a HUGE edge goes to EMP.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All above factors considered the overall edge goes to EMP.

At EMP's full price, I might consider rolling the dice, order from TSC and hope there are no problems to resolve. They do offer good value. This assumes that TSC is having a sale also. If neither is on sale, I'd wait and hope that the EMPs go on sale first.

I would in all likelihood not buy either at full price. I MIGHT consider the EMPs at full price, however, if the aesthetics were improved. The sound is just excellent ! I would DEFINITELY buy the EMP bookshelves at full price.

I think, therefore I am single.
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Old 01-27-2009, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for posting your thoughts, I'm still waiting to hook up my 351T's. Shouldn't be long now though!
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Old 01-27-2009, 02:52 PM
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PM,

Great review! You took a good deal of time and effort in preparing your thoughts for the benefit of others. Thank you. Good karma coming your way...

williak
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:01 PM
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Excellent review PannyMann,

I also purchased TST3's from tSc and had the same packaging issues. I found that my listening impressions mirror yours almost exactly. I am hoping break in whether my ears or the speakers will help in my case since I missed my return window. The packaging did influence my decision a little since I didn't think they would survive a return trip. My boxes had holes punched through right to the speakers and all the foam inserts were busted up, but, the speakers themselves weren't damaged. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Great job! Tom
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Old 01-28-2009, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Scott84Golf View Post

Thanks for posting your thoughts, I'm still waiting to hook up my 351T's. Shouldn't be long now though!

I think you'll enjoy them. What receiver will you be driving them with and how big is the room ? Just curious.

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Old 01-28-2009, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by williak View Post

PM,

Great review! You took a good deal of time and effort in preparing your thoughts for the benefit of others. Thank you. Good karma coming your way...

williak

Thanks. I tried to tell the WHOLE story just to keep it fair. I hope all who have time to read the entire thing gets enough info to help make a decision.

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Old 01-28-2009, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tommytutor View Post

Excellent review PannyMann,

I also purchased TST3's from tSc and had the same packaging issues. I found that my listening impressions mirror yours almost exactly. I am hoping break in whether my ears or the speakers will help in my case since I missed my return window. The packaging did influence my decision a little since I didn't think they would survive a return trip. My boxes had holes punched through right to the speakers and all the foam inserts were busted up, but, the speakers themselves weren't damaged. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Great job! Tom

My boxes had no hole but the foam inserts were still all busted up. I still can't figure out how that happened. I've never seen anything like that. TSC said that they arrive from overseas in good shape but get busted up during the domestic trip to customers. They really need to get that issue fixed.

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Old 02-04-2009, 02:11 PM
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great job pannymann, i just ordered a 7.1 set of the emp's myself during a big sale last december (the price was obscenely low at a particular audio site) and i love them (especially after a break in period which really made a difference). I did an a/b comparison with an old set of paradigm monitor 7 v.3's and the emp's really walk all over the old paradigms. i was going to do a review like this, but you did just a fantastic job that my review would be redundant. right now i've got the emp system hooked up to a denon 1909, and the imaging of the speakers combined with the audyssey set up is amazing at filling up a room with sound. i've got a denon 3808 to replace the 1909 and can't wait to see what they sound like with that.
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Old 02-04-2009, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sketch2099 View Post

great job pannymann, i just ordered a 7.1 set of the emp's myself during a big sale last december (the price was obscenely low at a particular audio site) and i love them (especially after a break in period which really made a difference). I did an a/b comparison with an old set of paradigm monitor 7 v.3's and the emp's really walk all over the old paradigms. i was going to do a review like this, but you did just a fantastic job that my review would be redundant. right now i've got the emp system hooked up to a denon 1909, and the imaging of the speakers combined with the audyssey set up is amazing at filling up a room with sound. i've got a denon 3808 to replace the 1909 and can't wait to see what they sound like with that.

Thanks sketch. I was hoping that this was not too long so I put the summary up front so I;m glad I saved you some thinking and typing effort :-).

one thing I didn't say was that I WAS a bit skeptical when I bought the EMPs given their non-sale full price. After hearing them though, man oh man I am a beleiver now. I've added an Emo XPA-3 to power my OMD-28 fronts downstairs and they are sounding fantastic. However, I still very much enjoy hiding away in the bedroom and listening to my EMP system do it;s thing. Yes the imaging is excellent but the detail is just superb. At reduced volume, everything is present, it just has a more 'intimate' quality.

I was thinking about picking up a 3808 before I picked up the XPA-3. It seemed to be more bang for the buck, which has turned out to be true given that my surrounds are getting more juice now as well. SQ has improved all around.

I would like to hear about the effects your 3808 has on your EMPs though. Can you oost your impressions with it when you are comfortable ?

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Old 02-05-2009, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PannyMann View Post

Thanks sketch. I was hoping that this was not too long so I put the summary up front so I;m glad I saved you some thinking and typing effort :-).

one thing I didn't say was that I WAS a bit skeptical when I bought the EMPs given their non-sale full price. After hearing them though, man oh man I am a beleiver now. I've added an Emo XPA-3 to power my fronts and they are sounding fantastic. However, I still very much enjoy hiding away in the bedroom and listening to my EMP system do it;s thing. Yes the imaging is excellent but the detail is just superb. At reduced volume, everything is present, it just has a more 'intimate' quality.

I was thinking about picking up a 3808 before I picked up the XPA-3. It seemed to be more bang for the buck, which has turned out to be true given that my surrounds are getting more juice now as well. SQ has improved all around.

I would like to hear about the effects your 3808 has on your EMPs though. Can you oost your impressions with it when you are comfortable ?

so you have an onkyo 505 powering the surrounds with the xpa-3 powering the front and center. i was wondering if this was possible because the power recommendations are 150w for fronts and 120w for center and i don't know how much i can exceed these ratings (i should probably just contact emp and ask them for the max wattage possible). that xpa-3 outputs 200wpc and you're speakers are doing well with that high of a power load? i'm curious how they'd perform with the volume really high. if you think it works well then i may consider doing the same thing eventually.

i'll get to hook up the 3808 in the next week or two and will definitely report on the difference in sound
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Old 02-05-2009, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by sketch2099 View Post

so you have an onkyo 505 powering the surrounds with the xpa-3 powering the front and center. i was wondering if this was possible because the power recommendations are 150w for fronts and 120w for center and i don't know how much i can exceed these ratings (i should probably just contact emp and ask them for the max wattage possible). that xpa-3 outputs 200wpc and you're speakers are doing well with that high of a power load? i'm curious how they'd perform with the volume really high. if you think it works well then i may consider doing the same thing eventually.

i'll get to hook up the 3808 in the next week or two and will definitely report on the difference in sound

I'm pretty sure the 505 doesn't have pre-outs.
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Old 02-05-2009, 09:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by D_Strasse View Post

I'm pretty sure the 505 doesn't have pre-outs.

Sorry guys, I was mixing thoughts about my downstairs system with the EMPs in the bedroom.

My point was that even though my downstairs system is now sounding REALLY great with the addition of the Emo XPA-3 powering my Mirage OMD-28 fronts and C2 center, I STILL enjoy the nuances of the EMP system in the bedroom which is powered by the 505.

Powering my surrounds in my downstairs system is an Onkyo TX-sr705 which also drives the XPA-3. I spoke about my speaker set up in a bit more detail at the beginning of the writeup.

Went back and fixed it. Sorry for the confusion.

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Old 02-05-2009, 09:20 PM
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Just sitting here listening to acoustic guitar on my EMP EF30T towers in my office... Pretty amazing quality for the $. This after hearing all the $$$$$$ speakers in the Venetian Towers at CES this year.
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Old 02-06-2009, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Just sitting here listening to acoustic guitar on my EMP EF30T towers in my office... Pretty amazing quality for the $. This after hearing all the $$$$$$ speakers in the Venetian Towers at CES this year.

I know it must have been ear candy for you. Did you get yours at the sale price ? Just wondering about your comment about their value.

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Old 02-06-2009, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by PannyMann View Post

I know it must have been ear candy for you. Did you get yours at the sale price ? Just wondering about your comment about their value.

I did get them at the sale price, but I'd pay the set price for the towers themselves. More than $1K and I would probably find some other options to compare them too.
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Old 02-06-2009, 12:37 PM
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I did get them at the sale price, but I'd pay the set price for the towers themselves. More than $1K and I would probably find some other options to compare them too.

Well, that begs the question: The EMP's or a set of Monitor Audio RS6's.

Anyone heard both and can compare? Or even TST2's to the MA's....
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Old 02-06-2009, 12:49 PM
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I've heard the MA's and RBH speakers which are prettier versions of the EMP's. IMO, the MA's convey more detail, are more neutral overall with a politeness to the sound, and image a little better. The RBH's also convey a good amount of detail, have a bolder presentation, and will outcrank the MA's. The MC series of RBH are more similar to the MA Silvers. Haven't heard any of the TSC offerings.
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Old 02-06-2009, 06:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rnatalli View Post

I've heard the MA's and RBH speakers which are prettier versions of the EMP's. IMO, the MA's convey more detail, are more neutral overall with a politeness to the sound, and image a little better. The RBH's also convey a good amount of detail, have a bolder presentation, and will outcrank the MA's. The MC series of RBH are more similar to the MA Silvers. Haven't heard any of the TSC offerings.

I'm quite pleased with the detail offered by the EMPs. The thing is, I'm only feeding them the rated 75wpc from my SR505 (who knows what it really puts out). So they may sound better with more power.

The TSCs were quite sensitive. Audyssey cut the gain to evey one of them which was not the case with the EMPs which were closer to zero all the way around. Again though, the TSC highs had this weird 'brittle' quality that was even more notable after I picked up the EMPs.

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Old 02-07-2009, 10:39 PM
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Nice review! I just wanted to echo what was already said by Panny. I purchased the 351T off of ebay, and had one of the towers arrive damaged. I'd paid for the insurance, and it was handled professionally without additional cost to myself. I recently received the new replacement speaker.

I'm no audiophile, but I think the towers sound terrific (I have KEF iQ5s and Energy C-5's for comparison). The only comment that I would add is that I think the sub is just ok. In part, this is because the towers are excellent and go pretty low already. The HSU VTF-1 that I have seems like it goes lower (by specs it does as well) and is tighter (I've not directly tested them side by side in the same room, so take this with a grain of salt). The EMP sub's front grill is also attached by little plastic posts also (a minor negative). The sub is the only thing that I know will eventually be replaced (VTF-2.3?). Overall, I'm quite pleased with the sound (particularly the towers) and especially the price/performance of this system.
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Old 02-09-2009, 09:58 AM - Thread Starter
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The sub is the only thing that I know will eventually be replaced (VTF-2.3?). Overall, I'm quite pleased with the sound (particularly the towers) and especially the price/performance of this system.

I agree 100% with your comments about the sub. For my ears it is the weak link in the system. It does very smoothly integrate with the rest of the system and is tuned more towards the musical. For HT however, I would rate it as adequate but definatley not outstanding because it doesn't dig deep enough.

I sisn't have too much to day about the sub since I was not running a TSC sub so I had no similar TSC product to compare it to.

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Old 02-22-2009, 12:06 PM
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hey pannyman, good to read your review. I was about set to buy this until I found this post. I am as well upgrading my JBL Northridge system. I had thought about the TST3's and their center as well. But i tell you what, looks like the EMP are worth the extra money. It gives me something to think about. Strange that the audioholics review of the TST2's where pretty good. So I'm assuming it's just personal opinion and which you have to take reviews with a grain of salt.

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Old 02-23-2009, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by amb7247 View Post

I had thought about the TST3's and their center as well. But i tell you what, looks like the EMP are worth the extra money. It gives me something to think about. Strange that the audioholics review of the TST2's where pretty good. So I'm assuming it's just personal opinion and which you have to take reviews with a grain of salt.

Audioholics reviews of EMP products are positive as well ! In fact, pay close attention to who provides the review over there and ask yourself if there is any advantage to Audioholics, particularly for products that they sell or from which they receive significant Advertisement revenues. What I wanted to do here was to compare the two since I had both of them in my home. My money is already spent so I have no dog in this hunt.

Also, bear in mind that I would consider the EMP setup a deal at the sale price. To my ears, they are a really FINE set of speakers and have a much more refined sound than the TSCs. I'm not as enthused however paying full price for them.

Glad you enjoyed the review.

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