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
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!!!
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
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.
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....