Sorry for not chiming in sooner, lots of travel for work has kept me quite busy this past week…
Props to deepstang for getting these speakers and listening to them. I pushed and egged him on to try and decide what he likes the best – and imo that’s one of the big takeaways from the listening we did. Listening and comparing really lets YOU decide what you like. I strongly preferred the rc10s, and he really liked the cb20s. The rc10 is technically the “better” or “higher-end” speaker but that doesn’t mean you will like the sound. There really isn’t a right or wrong, it’s a preference and a learning experience – that’s almost the most fun part of the journey for me.
Quick background of what I like in speakers: I started out with av321 speakers and while they get a lot of negative publicity, I strongly believe the x-series offered tremendous value in budget speakers. I really enjoyed my x-series classics, then planned to upgrade to the x-statiks but didn’t have room for them. I ended up with the x-cs encores as mains and then stepped up to the rocket line. The 750s were great, but a bit too laid back. After a lot of auditioning and searching I ended up with the 850 sigs and absolutely love them. I would have liked the paradigm studios but I couldn’t argue with the price of the rockets and their reviews were very good to say the least.
The pictures really tell a story in terms of the size between the speakers. The hsu is definitely the largest speaker. The rc10 is a more narrow but deeper than the cb20. I like the gloss finish on the front of the cb20. The hsu’s gloss finish is great as well, but fingerprints and reflections may be an issue depending on placement. I do agree with deepstang that the cb20 is the better looking speaker. From a distance the finish of both the energy speakers look similar with the grills on – I think the black oak or whatever they call it looks pretty good for the most part (the rosenut finish is hard to find, but it looks good as well). I noticed the size of the speakers more from the listening positioning than the finish. Up close you can tell the differences, minor in the grand scheme of things but noticeable.
As deepstang mentioned we listened in stereo mode. I’m big on testing without using mcacc or audyssey, and that’s what we did. It’s also quicker in that you don’t need to run settings then try to remember what was what. I’d say we were maybe 8-10 feet from the speakers. Remember audyssey is room correction, not speaker correction. I do agree that running everything in an ideal comparison would be different, but we were relatively consistent in our approach. Speakers were slightly toed in, about ear level height when sitting down at the listening position. We used a couple Dave Matthews songs we were both very familiar with. If we had more time, we could have done the test in different orders with more music, but this gave a good idea of what the differences were and which we preferred.
When we first listened (before the blind testing) we heard the hsu speakers. Imo they sounded good - they played deep and the highs seemed to kind of reach out. They seemed laid back, but definitely not as laid back as I remembered them earlier this year. We then switched to the rc10s. For me I noticed a difference immediately. I mentioned this to deepstang, and he was quite shocked as he noticed the difference as well. I don’t know why it wasn’t as noticeable before, but to me the rc10s just outclassed the hsu’s for music. They didn’t play as “big” per se but they sounded cleaner for sure. I used the word balanced a few times but they sounded great – smooth but still had good top end. The energy’s I have at home and the rc50s I heard sound very similar. I mentioned earlier in the thread I’m a fan of the energy’s – so keep that in mind.
HSU’s and Energy RC10s:
One thing I noticed between switching to the energy’s was they didn’t seem as loud; the volume seemed a bit lower. I believe the hsu’s are rated at half space, but they were still probably a bit more efficient. The bass from the hsu’s are more prominent, but it wasn’t as clean imo. I don’t want to use the term muddy, but boomy is probably more appropriate. In switching speakers, I commented that I would buy the rc10 twice. I was biased in that I knew all the speakers were say, under $400, but that’s the one I would buy.
The cb20 was definitely more efficient than the others. It seemed to play great at lower volumes – this is something that’s nice depending on listening preferences. I’m in an apartment, so I can’t really turn things up super loud. The cb20 was similar to the ascend 170s in that they sounded good at lower volumes. The rocket 750s and elt’s really needed some volume to shine (rockets loved power and the elt’s were like 84db efficiency). It was also the most forward of all the speakers. I didn’t think it was too bright or shrill, but at high volumes this might be a challenge.
I hope this helps those who were considering these speakers and/or just wanted to read about the experiences others had. While the pioneer speakers were a bit behind the others, they offer pretty good value for $100. I do think the primus p163s are a decent jump in performance and price at about $160. For new speakers, it’s hard to argue with the value of the primus line at that price range. The CB20s had a more forward sound and seemed more efficient than both the hsu’s and the rc10s. For movies I think I would prefer these, but I never cranked them to high levels. I preferred the rc10s and think it’s a great speaker for its sale price. It’s widely known as the performance leader at the sale price, and now I know why. The hsu’s are nice too, but I think either of the Energy speakers offer a sound I prefer. They do play loud and won’t be fatiguing, which is nice for those looking for an easy to listen to sound. Hope this helps!
Btw clock radio fidelity is better than I expected! That or I must have a bad clock radio