Hsu HB-1 vs B&W 684 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 02-10-2010, 08:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey everyone,

I'm investing in a sound system for music/movies and I'm not sure what direction to go. I went to an audio store to demo some budget Paradigms but found I actually preferred the sound of B&W 684 Loudspeakers at the same price (they go for $1100 a pair). I listened to a variety of music on them and really appreciated the overall tone and sound. I also tried them with a movie. If I purchase these, my intention is to eventually build a complete surround sound system around them.

I've spent some time scouring the internet as well and I keep coming across the Hsu HB-1 as a ridiculously good deal. In fact, the web site offers a 5.1 package deal for 1149.00. Every review I read talks about how they sound better than much more expensive speakers, how they blow the competition out of the water, etc. However, being a direct-only company, and me living in Seattle, I don't see any way I can demo them for myself.

So I pose the question to anyone out there with some experience in one or both of the models I'm looking at. I'm sure the Hsu's are great speakers, since everyone says they are, but what I can't grasp is if they're good speakers for a specific price range. I know that's difficult to quantify, but I'm wondering if I order them, if I'll feel disappointed that the music doesn't sound as lively or as present as the B&W's I demo'd. Does anyone familiar with the Hsu's know if they can compete with the B&W's?
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post #2 of 17 Old 02-10-2010, 10:42 PM
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The Hsu speakers are great for their price. They are excellent speakers for $150 each, no doubt. I haven't heard the B&W speakers you mentioned but I don't think the Hsu speakers will perform on that level, however. I have some HB-1s in the same room as a pair of studio monitors, and the monitors certainly have more detailed treble, but that is comparing apples to oranges, as the monitors are more expensive and serve a different function. As for subwoofers though, I think Hsu subs would walk all over B&W subs, regardless of price.
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post #3 of 17 Old 02-10-2010, 11:04 PM
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The Hsu HB-1 is a 2-way bookshelf speaker while the B&W is a 3-way floorstander. I don't think performance-wise they can be comparable, but I guess the issue for you is for the same money whether you want to get 2 large front speakers or a full 5.1 sat-sub system. As you preferred the B&Ws to the Paradigms for the "overall tone and sound", if sound quality is what you want and are willing to spend more money over time to build out the full system, then it seems the 684s are the better choice. If you want a full, bang-for-the-buck 5.1 system now, then perhaps the Hsu would be the right choice.

Having said that, I never suggest buying speakers that you haven't heard, no matter what the reviews say or what you read in online forums. As Hsu is an ID retailer, don't they have a return policy so that you can demo the speakers at home? If they do, it might be worth doing that if you are seriously considering them.
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post #4 of 17 Old 02-11-2010, 12:31 AM - Thread Starter
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You have 30 days to return the Hsu's but they don't refund shipping and handling, so the demo would cost me some $150
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post #5 of 17 Old 02-11-2010, 12:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KyaDawn View Post

Having said that, I never suggest buying speakers that you haven't heard, no matter what the reviews say or what you read in online forums.

OTOH, an "audition" that does not take place in your own listening room with you controlling the electronics is next to useless. A speaker may sound "great" in the store and fall flat at home. Your friendly neighborhood salesman will have probably "juiced" whatever speaker is going to make him/her the most profit and 'limited' the speakers with lower margins.
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post #6 of 17 Old 02-11-2010, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by HDTVChallenged View Post

OTOH, an "audition" that does not take place in your own listening room with you controlling the electronics is next to useless. A speaker may sound "great" in the store and fall flat at home. Your friendly neighborhood salesman will have probably "juiced" whatever speaker is going to make him/her the most profit and 'limited' the speakers with lower margins.

I wouldn't say it's next to useless, but of course a home audition would be preferable. But good luck trying to get all the dealers to let you take home all the speakers you want to audition.

"OTOH", buying a speaker blind is even worse.
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post #7 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 12:08 AM
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I wouldn't say it's next to useless, but of course a home audition would be preferable. But good luck trying to get all the dealers to let you take home all the speakers you want to audition.

I once had one nimrod of a salesdrone come over and deliberately fire up another speaker system while I was auditioning a set of speakers ... and I was literally the only person in that section of the store.

All the drone needs to do is give speaker B a couple of more dB's than speaker A .... and unless there's something really wrong (like a blown driver) with speaker B, you'll walk out the door with it.
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post #8 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 01:20 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm no "audiophile" but even I think I can separate tone from volume.

Besides, the two speakers I was demoing were the same price. The whole point was for me to hear the different sound that Paradigms and B&W's have. I bet most people in this forum will agree that they sound very different and which you like is a matter of preference.
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post #9 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HDTVChallenged View Post

All the drone needs to do is give speaker B a couple of more dB's than speaker A .... and unless there's something really wrong (like a blown driver) with speaker B, you'll walk out the door with it.

Speakers are really hard to audition correctly as louder makes a speaker sound 'better' than a equivalent speaker at a lower SPL. Speaker placement in the store can also affect how each speaker sounds.
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post #10 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HDTVChallenged View Post

I once had one nimrod of a salesdrone come over and deliberately fire up another speaker system while I was auditioning a set of speakers ... and I was literally the only person in that section of the store.

Where were you, at BestBuy? Those places are awful and I would never consider a store like that capable of providing a proper "audition".

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All the drone needs to do is give speaker B a couple of more dB's than speaker A .... and unless there's something really wrong (like a blown driver) with speaker B, you'll walk out the door with it.

I've been to some nightmare "demo rooms" where they literally had 50 pairs of speakers set up. In those situations, the auditions are rubbish and most of the time, the speakers sounded like crap anyway and certainly I would never "walk out the door" with anything that sounded like that. And definitely not because a speaker was turned up!

At the same time, I've been to some proper dealers with good sound-proofed and "private" audition rooms set up where they will switch out the speakers in the same position and using the same electronics and components. In those situations, you absolutely can differentiate between different speakers and even different electronics, i.e. amps. Of course, they won't sound identical to what they would in your house given the different room, electronics, everything, etc. But you're able to get a good idea of the performance of the speaker, and if the audition is correctly set up, also the "potential" of how good the speaker can sound.

There's no foolproof way to audition speakers outside your home, and even in your own home, there are so many variables. But to not audition is even worse, and pretty silly if we're talking about a substantial investment. Plus, if you love this "hobby", auditioning speakers is fun!
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post #11 of 17 Old 02-12-2010, 09:44 PM
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The HB1 are one of the better bookshelf speakers you can find for their price, I have recommended them to people who want bang for their buck for a good 5.1 system under $1500. But I also say if you can afford the B&W and already like the sound, I'd recommend just sticking to what you already heard and liked.

While it's true that auditioning in the store can be a trap in that the dealer's room can be quite different than your own room, ordering speakers to audition at home is not without flaws in that
1) you've already got them in your house so you are more likely to keep them. After all, shipping 5.1 speakers back is a hassle
2) unless you have the other speaker candidates in the same room to compare them to, the ones you just ordered will likely sound decent enough without direct comparison and you'll likely keep them for that reason.

Personally, I think speakers is one place you should spend more on. Speakers don't need to be replaced for years, even a decade or more, so you don't want to shortchange yourself early on. I started buying my speakers a pair at a time. Front main ones, a sub, then center, then rears over the course of 1.5 years. I have a much higher grade system this way.

Anyway, the B&W is a solid choice because of the reasons you stated, it does have a reputation for its lively musical sound.

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post #12 of 17 Old 02-13-2010, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by KyaDawn View Post

At the same time, I've been to some proper dealers with good sound-proofed and "private" audition rooms set up where they will switch out the speakers in the same position and using the same electronics and components.

Of course, by the time they get everything swapped out, you will have lost your "reference" from the previous set of speakers. It's nearly impossible to create a fair test ... especially in a short amount of time.

As a corollary, it is my opinion that the so called "speaker break in period" is nothing but the "let's get use to how these speakers sound" period.
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post #13 of 17 Old 02-13-2010, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by HDTVChallenged View Post

Of course, by the time they get everything swapped out, you will have lost your "reference" from the previous set of speakers. It's nearly impossible to create a fair test ... especially in a short amount of time.

Are you serious? If the guy has any clue what he's doing, it'll take 2 minutes max. Man, sounds like you've had some really bad experiences demoing speakers. That or your college days have left you with serious short-term memory loss. Then again, if your whole frame of reference is listening to speakers at Best Buy, that's like judging all cuisine by eating at McDonald's.

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As a corollary, it is my opinion that the so called "speaker break in period" is nothing but the "let's get use to how these speakers sound" period.

Not on topic at all, but yes, I agree with you.
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post #14 of 17 Old 02-17-2010, 08:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone, you have all given me some good advice. I really appreciate it.
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post #15 of 17 Old 02-17-2010, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by KyaDawn View Post

The Hsu HB-1 is a 2-way bookshelf speaker while the B&W is a 3-way floorstander.

Actually the 684 is a 2½-way and not a full 3-way. http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/display.aspx?infid=2287

Now I've personally owned the 685, 684, and 683... if you want the creme of the crop in performance, get the 683. The difference is worth the price. Bigger sounstage, deeper and more powerful bass with more weight and punch behind it, and clearer and more open mids (my favorite thing about them). Now if you have a sub and plan on crossing over to it, might just want to stick with the 685, honestly.
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post #16 of 17 Old 02-18-2010, 01:53 AM
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Actually the 684 is a 2½-way and not a full 3-way. http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/display.aspx?infid=2287

Now I've personally owned the 685, 684, and 683... if you want the creme of the crop in performance, get the 683. The difference is worth the price. Bigger sounstage, deeper and more powerful bass with more weight and punch behind it, and clearer and more open mids (my favorite thing about them). Now if you have a sub and plan on crossing over to it, might just want to stick with the 685, honestly.

Yes you're right! The identical mid-range/woofers, but crossed-over at difference frequencies always threw me for a loop. The 683 is the "true" 3-way speaker in the 600 series.
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post #17 of 17 Old 12-07-2010, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by HDTVChallenged View Post


Of course, by the time they get everything swapped out, you will have lost your "reference" from the previous set of speakers. It's nearly impossible to create a fair test ... especially in a short amount of time.

As a corollary, it is my opinion that the so called "speaker break in period" is nothing but the "let's get use to how these speakers sound" period.

This hasn't been my experience. I had a pair of 684's and would agree i didn't notice any differnce with the sound through or after the 'break in period' but i got another pair about 4 months later for the same room and i wouldn't say it was a huge difference maybe just a few % but for the same speakers any difference is huge. I would add it took well over a month of significant use before they sounded (to my ears) identical. Have since got three more for 7 channel surround and had the same issue again. I don't expect everyone has this situation but i thought i'd make it clear that at least with some speakers they really do change over time for better or worse sometimes even when they just haven't been used for a long time or have been stored somewhere cool.
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