6 Hours and 3 Stores Later: Audition Notes - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Shortly after the store opened at 11:00 AM, I arrived at IQ Home Entertainment in Fairfax, VA.

Before I say anything, I want to give a big shout-out to Johnny who demonstrated first-class customer service and patience with me. If you go there, ask for Johnny!

I walked into the store and told Johnny that my budget is about $2.5K for ideally a 2.0 bookshelf system+amp. And that my apartment has about 12-foot ceilings with a living room area of about 15x15 feet. I had identified IQ as a B&W retailer, so we got started with the PM1 speakers connected to an Arcam A18 integrated. I was immediately impressed by their sound for their size, especially the silky smooth treble response. (I took a 15-track custom demo CD with me.) I also auditioned each the B&W 685 and PM1 with both the P1VD and ASW608 subs. Though the room/amp setup could have been better, I more or less came the same conclusion that I have had all along that I want to stick with a 2.0 system. Finally, I auditioned the PM1 again (and CM9 for laughs) through a very high-end Bryston setup.

BUT THEN CAME THE SURPRISE...

On both the Arcam and Bryston setups, I auditioned the Monitor Audio RX8...and WOW! For around $1800, they put the entire lineup of B&W speakers to shame. Oh man, my sound! Fabulous! While fractionally lacking the absolute silky smooth treble response of the B&W speakers, the RX8s just dominated in terms of mid and bass extension. Wow! Wow! Wow! Audio bliss. The only slight put-off is that they are larger (floor-standing) speakers than I initially was looking for.

After IQ, I went and visited Evolution Audio Video LLC in Tysons Corner. I am sorry to say but their staff offered the exact opposite level of customer service as IQ. The atmosphere was so bad that I really just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. But not before I at least took a few minutes to audition the Paradigm SE3. With the memory of the RX8s in my ear, it only took me a few minutes to realize that they were not in the same league in any shape or form, so I just took off.

Finally, it was off to JS Audio in Bethesda, MD. I wanted to save Dynaudio for last. I was helped by David who was extremely kind and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, unlike the other stores, JS feels extremely small and cramped to the point I could barely audition the speakers because I was interfering with a long-time customer who was about to make a $20K purchase. I certainly understood that he should take priority, but it was a little odd feeling. Next time I will make an appointment.

I was also bummed to learn that JS had recently sold their last pair of X16s. I had called about 2-3 weeks ago and they were in stock, so I was HIGHLY anticipating them, so I was quite disappointed to learn they were no longer there. I had to settle for a brief, quieter audition of the x12s with a "plain-Jane" Sony multichannel receiver...

BUT OMG!!!

OMG!

That sound! That size!!!! Are you kidding me?????

WOW! WOW! WOW!


They sounded AMAZING, about 90% of what I am looking for. I just would like A LITTLE MORE bass extension. So I was EVEN MORE floored that I could not audition the X16s!!! GAHHH!!!!

So I left my contact info with David who is going to look into setting an appointment for me in about 3 weeks to audition the x12s, x16s, and....

The XEO 3 speakers!

David said he spent hours with them at CES and was blown away. In fact, he recommended the XEO3s as a better value at around $2300 as they will produce sound that is better than the X12s with an amp that I could afford.

So, where does this leave me?

I will go back to JS to audition the X12, X16, and XEO 3.

But I must say that the biggest thing I learned today is just how important the quality (and quantity) of amplification is.

This leaves me with the following question...

Let's say my budget is FIRM at $2500.

Which option would be best?

A) MA RX8 for $1750 = $750 max for amplification.
B) Dyn Xeo 3 for about $2500 = no need for amplification (nor cables).
C) Dyn X16 for $1600 = $900 max for amplification.
D) Dyn X12 for $1200 = $1300 max for amplification.

Also...

Do you all think that the XEO 3 will depreciate faster or slower than the rest with all of its integrated amplification/wireless features? I was told that they will most likely depreciate slower.

Finally, while I am leaning strongly in the direction of Dynaudio, before it is all said and done, I will probably pay Johnny and the RX8s one more visit....

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post #2 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 04:36 PM
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Amps don't make an audible sound difference. Assuming they arent clipping, the path is linear, and there's no audible distortion, there isnt a sound difference.

Audio"fools" will tear me out on this, but that's only because they have to defend their $5000 purchase.

I took part in a blind test and no one could identify an audible difference between a high end mcintosh amp and a 12wpc amp from 25 years ago.

Save money, buy a high quality used amp for 3-500 bucks. I love dynaudio btw.
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post #3 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 04:53 PM
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The Harmon 3490 will work - look online for better deals
http://www.harmanaudio.com/search_br...203490&status=

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post #4 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

....... I had to settle for a brief, quieter audition of the x12s with a "plain-Jane" Sony multichannel receiver...

BUT OMG!!!

OMG!

That sound! That size!!!! Are you kidding me?????

WOW! WOW! WOW!


They sounded AMAZING, about 90% of what I am looking for. I just would like A LITTLE MORE bass extension. So I was EVEN MORE floored that I could not audition the X16s!!! GAHHH!!!!

..........................

This experience should tell you something........put your money in the speakers, not the amp. Speakers have FAR more impact on sound than the amp. Just make sure the amp has sufficient power to drive them without clipping.

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post #5 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Saturn94 View Post

This experience should tell you something........put your money in the speakers, not the amp. Speakers have FAR more impact on sound than the amp. Just make sure the amp has sufficient power to drive them without clipping.

Exactly. The OP should get those X12's, add something like an HK 3390 stereo receiver, and take that extra $1000 and buy dual subs!. Something like a pair of Epik Legends would embarrass the bass of all but the largest tower speakers.
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post #6 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jay1 View Post

exactly. The op should get those x12's, add something like an hk 3390 stereo receiver, and take that extra $1000 and buy dual subs!. Something like a pair of epik legends would embarrass the bass of all but the largest tower speakers.

+1

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post #7 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
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It's funny. Everywhere I went today, people kept stressing the need for clean power from amps costing $1100-$5000 or more. I even mentioned the HK 3490 to one person and he basically trashed it, saying that HK stands to license their brand only and doesn't care about the quality of their product.

I think the real decision for me at this point is Xeo 3 vs. x12/x16. And then if the latter, x12 vs. x16.

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post #8 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

It's funny. Everyone I went today, people kept stressing the need for clean power from amps costing $1100-$5000 or more. I even mentioned the HK 3490 to one person and he basically trashed it, saying that HK stands to license their brand only and doesn't care about the quality of their product.

I think the real decision for me at this point is Xeo 3 vs. x12/x16. And then if the latter, x12 vs. x16.

Because they cater to audiofools who will spend their money on it. It's a high margin item - and most of those salesman believe what they're saying; because someone used big words in a review to claim "this is the amp you need!" or "good amps are necessary!" etc etc
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post #9 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:33 PM
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I agree amps don't matter if played within their limits. Spend the extra towards better speakers or subs or pocket the difference.

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post #10 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:50 PM - Thread Starter
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So people think I would be fine with the HK 3490 as compared to the likes of Cambridge Audio, Arcam, Niam Nait, etc.?

Current HiFi: Dynaudio Focus 260 | Meridian Direct DAC | NAIM XS 2 (2013)
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post #11 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

So people think I would be fine with the HK 3490 as compared to the likes of Cambridge Audio, Arcam, Niam Nait, etc.?

Yes, and you get dual RCA sub outputs for easy system setup.
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post #12 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

So people think I would be fine with the HK 3490 as compared to the likes of Cambridge Audio, Arcam, Niam Nait, etc.?

Remember, you were blown away when using a ""plain-Jane" Sony multichannel receiver". Trust your ears.

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post #13 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn94 View Post

Remember, you were blown away when using a ""plain-Jane" Sony multichannel receiver". Trust your ears.

This is true...

Current HiFi: Dynaudio Focus 260 | Meridian Direct DAC | NAIM XS 2 (2013)
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post #14 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn94 View Post


Remember, you were blown away when using a ""plain-Jane" Sony multichannel receiver". Trust your ears.

^^^ this.

If you have a cheapy 300/400 dollar receiver using a few watts, there isnt a difference between that and an expensive amp.

Spending several, several, several thousands on a separate amp is pointless and a waste of money!
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post #15 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:04 PM - Thread Starter
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So perhaps my refined options are as follows:

1) Dynaudio XEO3 (Est. $2500)
2) Dynaudio X16 + HK 3490 (Est. $2050+Cables)
3) Dynaudio X12 + HK 3490 + Sub (Epik?) (Est. $2150+Cables)

Current HiFi: Dynaudio Focus 260 | Meridian Direct DAC | NAIM XS 2 (2013)
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post #16 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:06 PM
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I agree that speakers (and the environment they are in) make the most difference in the quality of the sound, However, I have to disagree with the characterization that all amps sound alike. I have heard differences in amplification many times, in a number of different situations. YMMV.

My recommendation: Test drive many combinations of speaker and amp and decide based upon what you hear, not what some salesperson tells you is better.

Good luck with your search!
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post #17 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:07 PM
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^ oh no...what's this (+ cables)

introducing... da da da da!

monoprice

http://www.monoprice.com/

and loyal sidekick parts express

http://www.partsexpress.com/

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post #18 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

So perhaps my refined options are as follows:

1) Dynaudio XEO3 (Est. $2500)
2) Dynaudio X16 + HK 3490 (Est. $2050+Cables)
3) Dynaudio X12 + HK 3490 + Sub (Epik?) (Est. $2150+Cables)

Hk receivers=overpriced.

I scored an older arcam amp in mint condition for $400, it puts out 250/channel into 8 ohms, clear path, and a huge transformer. That's all you need. Big brand means nothing, find something used!
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post #19 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:11 PM
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GT, GT, It's sounds like you had a blast today. Ironically enough I frequent two of those establishments. I just recently paid my first visit it IQ two weeks ago and I must agree with you that the customer service there is really good. I too spoke with David and Steven today at JS. They called me to inform me that a customer will be soon trading in C1 mki and they gave me first dibs. They also offered to take my 140s back in a trade since I got them from them a little while back. I have a verbal agreement to complete a purchase for the same speakers with another dealer on Monday, (talk about a mess). But you really owe it to yourself to listen to the 140s. From reading your post if you want to budget $2500, Focus 140s for say $1400 and maybe a Naim Nait 5i for say $7-800 would be right up your alley. I have heard the Excites and they are excellent but as everyone knows with Dynaudio at least when you move up you move up. I haven't heard the Xeo set up at JS, I have to check it out. It sounds interesting though. If I end up buying the C1s off of Joe, I bet you would be the first person he calls about my trade in 140s. Small world huh.
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post #20 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by nick05 View Post

GT, GT, It's sounds like you had a blast today. Ironically enough I frequent two of those establishments. I just recently paid my first visit it IQ two weeks ago and I must agree with you that the customer service there is really good. I too spoke with David and Steven today at JS. They called me to inform me that a customer will be soon trading in C1 mki and they gave me first dibs. They also offered to take my 140s back in a trade since I got them from them a little while back. I have a verbal agreement to complete a purchase for the same speakers with another dealer on Monday, (talk about a mess). But you really owe it to yourself to listen to the 140s. From reading your post if you want to budget $2500, Focus 140s for say $1400 and maybe a Naim Nait 5i for say $7-800 would be right up your alley. I have heard the Excites and they are excellent but as everyone knows with Dynaudio at least when you move up you move up. I haven't heard the Xeo set up at JS, I have to check it out. It sounds interesting though. If I end up buying the C1s off of Joe, I bet you would be the first person he calls about my trade in 140s. Small world huh.

Hmmm...Once JS has your 140s, I would be willing to audition them, but I would want to A/B them with the x16s, XEO3s...

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post #21 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post

I agree that speakers (and the environment they are in) make the most difference in the quality of the sound, However, I have to disagree with the characterization that all amps sound alike. I have heard differences in amplification many times, in a number of different situations.

My recommendation: Test drive many combinations of speaker and amp and decide based upon what you hear, not what some salesperson tells you is better.

Good luck with your search!

It is VERY hard to do this when most people only stock REALLY high end stereo amps. There is never "budget" in sight (<$1K).

Current HiFi: Dynaudio Focus 260 | Meridian Direct DAC | NAIM XS 2 (2013)
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post #22 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post


Hmmm...Once JS has your 140s, I would be willing to audition them, but I would want to A/B them with the x16s, XEO3s...

Let me know when you plan to make another visit to JS, I wouldn't mind bringing my Nait XS down to audition with Dyns if Joe is okay with it.
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post #23 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post

It is VERY hard to do this when most people only stock REALLY high end stereo amps. There is never "budget" in sight (<$1K).

bring your own?

a t-amp ought to liven the party.

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=310-300

you can pull out your $25 amp and when it sounds (at reasonable volumes) near identical to their > $1000 amp you can ask them why?

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post #24 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Let me know when you plan to make another visit to JS, I wouldn't mind bringing my Nait XS down to audition with Dyns if Joe is okay with it.

Sure, will let you know. But it may be a week or three...

I am usually ZipCar/Metro bound. I splurged $105 today to get "my" Volvo S40 T5 for the entire day such that I didn't have to worry about getting it back on time. Otherwise, I wouldn't give a second thought to demoing your setup at your house...if invited, etc. Since JS is Metro accessible, it is nice middle ground.

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post #25 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by GTaudiophile View Post


Sure, will let you know. But it may be a week or three...

I am usually ZipCar/Metro bound. I splurged $105 today to get "my" Volvo S40 T5 for the entire day such that I didn't have to worry about getting it back on time. Otherwise, I wouldn't give a second thought to demoing your setup at your house...if invited, etc. Since JS is Metro accessible, it is nice middle ground.

I'm sure we can arrange something. Man you heard some awesome set ups today. You impressions of the Excite 12s were the same as mine. When I heard them I knew that I was now barking up the right tree. Whatever Dynaudio speakers you choose will be the right choice. They are all awesome!
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post #26 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 08:46 PM
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bring your own?

a t-amp ought to liven the party.

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=310-300

you can pull out your $25 amp and when it sounds (at reasonable volumes) near identical to their > $1000 amp you can ask them why?

Love this quote. They'll have an excuse such as, "the power from the expensive amp is still lingering in the pre amp yada yada".

I asked an audio shop in the north shore of long island to switch between a reference marantz amp and their "lower" budget friendly series, and he claimed they were too heavy to move and need special rooms to operate in... Yeah... Okay.
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post #27 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 10:50 PM
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Try a tube amp with the Dyns. I heard a Cary tube amp and could clearly hear a difference over solid state.
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post #28 of 45 Old 03-03-2012, 11:37 PM
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I have two Denons, Two Pioneers. A AKAI and a NAD. Here is how I would rate the sound. 1. NAD (very full and forceful) 2. Denon (very full but not as forcefull as the NAD) 3. Pioneer (sound not as rich as 1 and 2) 4. AKAI (I don't think it outputs below 55 Hz!)
Any grouping of pure amps will sound the same but, something happens in the pre amp section that can make or break a integrated.

Sounds good!
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post #29 of 45 Old 03-04-2012, 04:59 AM
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Powered speakers with multiple amps designed for that specific speaker can offer some modest advantages.

But if resale value is a consideration, personally I'd steer away from powered speakers. Much smaller market, and I'm wary of the condition and maintenance / service questions buying them used.

I've always been a skeptic about amps, but I will say that owning an IcePower amp changed my mind a little. But the differences are subtle, only noticeable if you're really paying attention or at high volumes. For most people, the value isn't there vs. spending on speakers or elsewhere in the system. (So it's really lame when people try to cram separates down some value buyer's throat in other threads.)

And, the impact of amps is a fraction of the effect of placement and the room. That affects the sound every second the system is on, any you don't have to devote your full attention to hear the differences. Most people don't seem to want to do the work of figuring that out, or don't feel like they have the option to put the speakers where they should be.
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post #30 of 45 Old 03-04-2012, 05:21 AM
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Keep in mind the Dynaudio speakers are 4ohm, and have low sensitivity. So if your goal is to really push these things and play loud, you will absolutely want an amp with some power.

I am with the others though, don't spend too much of your budget on your receiver/amp.
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