These are my impressions - Brandon told me I had to be "nice" but honest at the same time. I will try my best because I don't want to offend Brandon's friends, but I also don't want to lie. He requested I go in the order that we listened to the speakers, which was by price class starting with the cheapest first. He asked that I mention that the PSB's didn't make it to the get together. All of the guys were very nice to me even though I am a female and a "novice" at this. Terry did a great job as host, and I actually enjoyed the event. When the first pair of speakers fired up it was like watching grown men transformed into little boys opening their first gift on Christmas morning.
You could tell these folks really love their speakers.
My husband made me spend way too much time listening to these before the get together. At our house imaging was good but the vocals were lacking. I felt like they were either pushed way back in the stage or it sounded like they were drowned out by other instruments. My husband says this may have had to do with the open back design. We tried various stuffing configurations and the vocals still sounded recessed. I heard a bass peak and Brandon tried to correct it with REW and filters but it didn't go away. He showed me it was around 100Hz, but the other frequencies measured pretty flat. Moving on to the get together, they still sounded like they had the bass peak. The sound stage was wider, but that is probably because Terry has a bigger and better room. The vocals didn't change and were still quietly in the background compared to everything else. There was no depth and feeling with the vocals, and it sounded more like a studio recording than an intimate setting. I like the tweeter - it doesn't give me a headache. I was unimpressed with the quality of the cabinets. I honestly had a higher expectations because my husband talks up Dennis Murphy who makes the crossovers for Salk speakers. I don't think anything was wrong with the crossover, but I expected the quality of his speaker to match Jim Salk's and it did not. These were my second least favorite speakers.
The second speaker was ours (SongTower's), which I love, of course. Nothing beats them in this price range that I've heard. I liked the bass in ours, although at home we have more bass because we pair them with subwoofers. It wasn't bad bass in Terry's home (actually better than I expected), but small bass drivers can only do so much (so I am told). I liked the tweeter because it didn't give me a headache. I think certain tweeters give women headaches, but ours doesn't. The vocals really come in a grasp you; it's like an intimate setting with the artist right there with you. The instruments are well placed throughout the room. My husband says "you are clearly bias," but I just think they are a super awesome speaker. The cabinetry is just beautiful, especially the high gloss. The SongTower's are tied for second best with Terry's speakers because we use subwoofers at home which makes up for the difference in bass.
Ascend Sierra Tower:
I really liked the slimness of the tower and the look of the high gloss. I was interested in hearing these speakers because they cost the same as our SongTower's and because they were owned by a man with the same name as my husband (nice jeans - haha). The speakers had more midrange presence than the Philharmonic speakers but less than I am used to. It didn't engage me and it was just "there." The bass was good but I would have paired them with subs. The tweeter was brighter than ours but didn't give me a headache. These speakers just felt laid back and were in the middle of the pack, tied with Mark Seaton's for third best.
JTR Tripple 12:
I didn't care for the look of this speaker. These speakers sounded louder than the others even though they were level matched. My husband explained why that is, but I don't know how to explain it; something about them not reaching as low and how that affected the pink noise signal used to level match each speaker. The tweeter was too high pitched with cymbals, and the female vocals were too screechy, like nails on a chalk board. I think women are more sensitive in this region, so I understand why men might like it. I actually left the room during this listening session. I mean no offense to the designer; he seemed nice. With that said, these were my least favorite speaker.
Salk HT2 TL:
I wouldn't say they were much different than ours but obviously there was more bass; they could probably be used without a subwoofer. Perhaps the soundstage was a tad wider - maybe - but very similar to ours (SongTower's). The cabinetry work was done very well and had a nice smoked look to it. These were tied for second place with the SongTower's - I liked them very much.
Patrick, you will love these speakers, even if they aren't in your bedroom (haha, you won't be able to ask people to get into your bed and hear them). I didn't care for the looks and the wood was too grainy, even under the black paint. These speakers had very nice bass, something that I appreciate because I like bass (Brandon says more bass than him). You could really feel it, and it was immersive. These speakers also got really loud (Brandon calls it dynamics), but I don't like the tweeter. The cymbals were too edgy again, but not as bad as the JTR's. The vocals were good except in the higher midrange frequency when they could sound too high pitched. The Catalysts would be great speakers for Home Theater. These were tied for third with the Ascend Towers.
My favorite! The only bad thing I really have to say is I don't care for the shape/look of the cabinetry; looks like a temple. They look better in person than in pictures, though, and grew on me a little. With that said the build quality was excellent and the wood veneer was really cool. The sound was smooth without losing detail; everything flowed, nothing was strained and you could close your eyes and feel like you were right there. It didn't sound like speakers were playing, but instead sounded like the artists and instruments were just there in the room. I know there was a defective midrange driver, but I didn't really notice. The bass was really good and flowed into the midrange, which in turn flowed into the tweeter. Everything was proportionate to what it should be. This is why they were my favorite speakers. We will probably never own them, though, due to their price.
I had fun at the get together, and being there you really notice the affect a room has on a speaker (they sounded different than in our home). I think it is good to know how the speaker you want sounds in your house, but this comparison will at least help you to know if you do like the basic sound of each speaker. Perhaps you'll see me again in the future...perhaps...maybe. Thank you.