Archaea's Impressions:Disclaimer: These notes only summarize my own personal subjective ear. This is what I heard. Speakers are vastly personal. You may hear the same four speakers and walk away with a completely different set of impressions.
To sum up my experience in this meet: Things didn't turn out as I expected at all...
What's nice about it though is I don't have any dog in this particular fight -- because I don't own any of the speakers auditioned. I don't think any of us had heard all four of these speakers before, and I might have been one of the ones with the most experience with each of these speakers, as I'd at least heard three of the four before, but I still couldn't identify what was what in the blind audition. I've heard the ED's on multiple occassions at carps house and like them (actuall was/am considering buying a set). I've heard the JTR Triple Eight's once at bluesprings1 house and liked them (I've heard the JTR single eights at HuskerOmaha's sub meet), I've heard the CHT Sho 10's once (also at HuskerOmaha's sub meet). I'd never before heard the DR-250s. I've had my current Wharfedale setup for a long time - over a decade. I've gone through a lot of subwoofers over the years until I landed on my JTR Captivators (which I absolutely love), but in contrast of streaming through sub purchases - I've always just retained my Wharfedale SP 89 towers as my front mains, since I purchased them in the year 2000 (I think). I like my speakers and so far have not heard any speaker that is a must buy over my current speaker equipment. It seems that any speaker that is significantly better than my Wharfedales in some aspect is slightly worse than my Wharfedales in some other aspect, so it makes the upgrade/swap some what less attractive. My Wharfedales seem a bit of a blance of all the things I like --- or in reality perhaps I'm just used to their sound after owning them for a decade and so that's the sound I like --- regardless of whether something is significantly better to an unbiased ear.
I've attended several speaker meets(Wisconsin 2012, Iowa 2012, KC 2012), and several subwoofer meets (KC 2011, Omaha 2011, KC 2012) - and been to a LOT of people's houses to hear their equipment, or help them setup their room in the last couple years. In my mind subwoofers make more difference to the overall sound experience than speakers. Speakers all seem to have admirable traits and then the very next clip might reveal something you don't like as much. This series of tradeoffs is why I understand some people use two different pairs of speakers in their home theater. To me subwoofers have more clear tiers of quality, and more importance to your overall sound. And they seem easier to judge without so much disagreement on those tiers. Case in point, one of the guys who I won't name individually has heard speakers that cost up to $6K a pair and he still prefers his cheap $150 pair of Andrew Jones Pioneers in the realm of bang to buck to the other speakers he's heard. That same guy knows a subwoofer is very important and so owns a Submersive. Funny eh? Nah --- not really - - - A great sub will help out budget speakers. A budget sub won't do a darn thing for a set of great speakers. For my part I'd rather have a $2000 subwoofer and $500 pair of speakers than a $2k pair of speakers and a $500 sub. So needless to say the dual submersive HP setup was (as always) quite impressive adding the ever important low end reinforcement to the various speaker setups in carp's house.
Of all the speakers I've ever heard there isn't a single speaker that trumps the others in every other category across the board, and that includes some of the top tier players in this community - Salk, Ascend, JTR, Seaton, Klipsch --- whatever. What a shame, but then I guess it'd be too easy to pick a single winner and we'd all own the same speaker. Instead you pretty much have to choose your priority and pick a speaker that best plays to those specific criteria --- realizing that it may miss the mark somewhat on other lesser categories.
These are the songs I picked as my demo tracks, and they are the songs I listened to in the sweet spot when it was my turn.
here are the titles
For my turn in the hotseat I tried to follow the same pattern every time.
For the first three songs of the list I listened to them at reference level
On the fourth song by Dr. Dre I turned the speakers up 3.5dB hot over reference
For the fifth song, Tarzan Boy, I turned the speakers up to 10dB hot over reference - This is the beginning of the Tarzan boy song and it's a simplistic synthesized chorus, which is both easy and fun to listen to quite loud.
When the sixth song started I would let it start at the +10dB from the Tarzan boy track but quickly felt I needed to turn it down for every speaker except for speaker C. Speaker A, B, and D, all sounded harsh, or overdriven on DeadMau5 at +10dB over reference.To my ears
--- for my specific clips and for my time in the sweetspot chair - Speaker C was absolutely unique in that when I heard it at +10 on the DeadMau5 track, I didn't rush for the volume control. I looked at carp and was like YEAH!!!
--- now we are talking! It was super clean and sounded Awesome! I started edging up the volume and it just stayed clean. I kept inching the volume up and got to +16.5 dB over reference and it still sounded absolutely Awesome! At that point even I quit moving the volume up because it was beyond extreme and still AWESOME -- there is no way I could need more spl even if the speakers still possessed the capability of more. It was everything you could hope that track to sound like. Joel Thomas Zimmerman himself would have been grinning ear to ear on this track. I don't know how Speaker C could have played this track any better, and the submersive HPs were taking it all in stride and sounded fantastic as well. A+ A+ A+ A+ A+. I immediately thought these speakers had to be the JTR because what else could possibly generate that much SPL and stay clean? I exclaimed to those sitting next to me that for my part we could stop the Speaker C audition right there for this set of speakers and that would be sufficient. I knew which speakers I most liked because these seemed to have so much more ridiculous headroom and sounded nearly as good as anything else we'd heard in the other categories to this point --- but I'm glad we didn't stop the audition, because there was more to learn about these speakers. This was early in the audition as my clips were second. Alas, as the other attendees clips went on I realized Speaker C wasn't as clearly superior to Speaker B (which I thought at the time was the DR-250) on all things. Turns out by the end of Speaker C's audition I could have flipped a coin and been happy with B or C. I felt like B was more refined and lacked some of the harshness I detected at times on Speaker C, but Speaker C dynamics sure were impressive to the ninth degree! Midbass was crazy. Gunfire during the movie scenes was just beyond fantastic. At the end of that session I was thinking that the Speaker C was definately JTR. Though I was a bit frustrated because Speaker C didn't cleanly sweep Speaker B. After the full Audition I actually found myself thinking Speaker B was probably the more realistic pick for me because of some of that harshness I heard in some of the later music on Speaker C, but man I loved the headroom on the Deadmau5 track - LOVED IT! And the gunfire on Speaker C was the stuff home theater dreams are made of.Individual Speaker Impressions -Speaker A -
Bright Speakers - Very Crisp
Maybe finding limits at around 3-4 over reference on DeadMau5 track -- more volume than I actually need, but I don't like finding limits on equipment -- and I know I'm just happier with a product if I don't know limits exist or at least can't find them)
Harsh on the classical music clips that Grant selected (but I don't like those tracks anyway.
Fantastic imaging in just a single seat. No imaging anywhere else --- very much left channel dominant if on left side, or right channel dominant if on right side as I moved around the room during the music, but the sweetspot was very good! I scored it a 4 on imaging, but if you were only talking about the center main seat it would be a 5
Center Channel sounds very good, better than most center channels I've ever heard.
Great Dynamics on the Book of Eli scene
The chain falling down the well in the LOTR is a bit too harsh/intense/sounds like a mesh of sizzle rather than chain links clinkingGoosebumps?
1 time on the Michael Jackson - This Is It demo track -- very brief - like one second in the dynamic horn blast. Not as much emotion created from these speakers as I would hope for.Overall
I liked them for movies, but didn't like them as much for music. The treble bias was too strong for my tastes.
I figured these were the CHT SHO10's
I was wrong - these were the ED Cinema 12s.Does it make sense?
I was surprised with this because I always like the Cinema 12's in carps house, but on a recent loan of carp's ED cinema 12 front soundstage I did think the treble was too strong in my untreated tile floor room. In hind sight this makes sense because the center channel is especially strong on these speakers, and I thought the movies were great. I didn't much like the music on the cinema 12's in my room, and I think this was recreated in the blind testing, but I failed to identify them correctly as the ED Cinema 12s.Speaker B -
First Impressions is that this speaker is a bit less treble biases which is good!
I thought it was excellent on my song selections, excellent on my acapella track - excellent on guitar rifts, excellent on rap, excellent on 80's music.
I definitely liked these speakers more than Speaker A for music.
I stll had to turn down the Deadmau5 tack to +3.5 dB over reference or so --- cause like the first speaker audition this one sounded bad at +10 on that track IMO.
I thought these speakers were a bit closer to what I'm used to at home -- though still perhaps a bit brighter than I prefer.
The Chain on LOTR falling in the well actually sounded like a chain. Much better than speaker A as there was no harshness on speaker B
Fantastic center channel experience! Just no strain at all. Very Good!
Clear Clear Clear on the Michael Jackson Track. I loved it, but I felt I'd heard better on this track when I demoed the ED's at my place a few weeks back.
I felt the imaging on these was the worst of the group, as I didn't hear a center channel presence at all when I was in the sweetspot. YET oddly enough when you were off axis the sound was more enjoyable to me. Sitting on the left or right side of the room didn't mean you only heard the left or right channel as strongly as speaker A I felt.
Good for Movies too!Goosebumps?
yes 2x's. Once in one of Carp's rock songs on a guitar solo of all places??!???!? That never happens to me on that kind of music. I don't even like that music? But guitar rifts sounded great on this speaker. Then a second time and for a longer period on the Michael Jackson track.Overall
I liked these quite a bit better than Speaker A. They sounded pretty similar for movies with the slight edge going to speaker B, but for Music I really liked Speaker B quite a bit more. Speaker B seemed to be a very refined speaker.
I figured these were the DR250's if only because I couldn't place their sound. They felt warm, and refined.
I was wrong - these were the JTR Triple Eights.Does it make sense?
This is a resounding NO. I've heard the JTR speakers before and felt they had a brighter treble bias than what I heard in the blind testing of Speaker B. Also while I really liked these speakers at reference level, I did not like them at +10dB. I would have figured the JTR should have made mincemeat out of the +10dB DeadMau5 track. I recently heard the Triple Eights at bluesprings1's house at +16 and they rocked! So I can't understand this one. Yet overall these or Speaker C was my favorite speaker of the meet. They traded punches. I'd be happy with either. My purchase of one or the other probably would have depended on the room I was going to use them in. If I was going to have a live room I would buy Speaker B because it was less harsh, and a bit more refined. If I was going to have a treated room or large room I would buy Speaker C to enjoy the dynamics and just enjoy the crazy SPL without the fear of the extra brightness overwhelming. I think I may have liked Speaker C a tiny bit better overall, but it was close and I do believe Speaker B would be a better match for my room because of my lack or room treatments and tile floor. Treble bias just hurts with too much reflectively in your room. Even though Speaker B was the least treble heavy speaker - it still was just a tiny bit more than I prefer when compared to my accustomed Wharfedale sound. I would be glad to own these speakers!Speaker C -
First Impression through Michael's track list is that these are a bit brighter than B, but not as bright as A. Okay so far. Then we get to my tracks. Sounds good!
Then we get to the point where I start turning my tracks up. +3.5dB on Dr Dre sounds great, +10 on Tarazan boy sounds the best so far. I get my finger ready on the volume control for the inevitable turn down when DeadMau5 comes onboard, and WOW! I didn't have to turn it down! It sounded fabulous. At this point look a few paragraphs up for my notes on "To My Ears" Suffice to say these are my new favorite speakers of the meet so far and by no small margin. They reproduced the loud volumes I asked of them with nothing short of excellence. Think about this. The first two times we played this clip I reduced the volume from +10dB over reference to +3.5dB over reference because the other speakers didn't sound up to the task for this song. On Speaker C I'm now cranking the tune out at +16.5dB and it SOUNDS FREAKING AMAZING! Take a look at my score sheet and see just how darn enthusiastic I was about the speaker at this point. For the love of all things holy these speakers can rock it out when called upon! If I'm not making it clear - I was BLOWN AWAY BY THESE SPEAKERS on the DeadMau5 track!!!! Like blown away to the point of --- stop the audition -- which speakers are these? Pull out my wallet and buy them right now regardless of cost. Anyone there will attest I was really loving that moment. Stereo imaging was the best so far on these speakers in the sweet spot to boot. I would swear up and down the center channel was on and the vocals were coming directly from the center of the room. I gave it the only five on imaging. As I retired from the sweetspot and listened to the remaining 18 minutes or so of music from other positions a little of the enthusiasm wore off. There was some harshness caused by too much treble. The classical music Grant had didn't sound good again. Some of carp's rock was too treble heavy. Not as harsh as Speaker A, but definitely a bit more harsh than speaker B. But wait!!!! At the end of the rock selection carp put together I had a solid like minute and a half of chills on three different rock clips. One starting with a female rock artist, then into the same guitar solo that gave me a chill on Speaker B, and then into the following rock chorus track. It was intense! Like 1.5 minutes of intense, exciting chills/goosebumps. OH YEA! This is fantastic once again!!! --Wait...I don't even like hard rock. What am I saying? ...Whatever! - I love this! For the first time I didn't get chills on the Michael Jackson clip ---- BUT it was still fantastic. Now onto the movie clips. Gunshots are pure insanity. Best so far by no small margin. Midbass on gunshots is just pure bliss. A shotgun blast on open range is everything it should be! The book of Eli scene sounded like real gun blasts. I look at desertdome and tell him these things have to be running hot don't they? He says no - the speakers are calibrated to the same level. Now carp had been messing with the sub settings on all of these clips during his music section so who knows what was up --- BUT REGARDLESS of that - these things went to +16.5 on the Deadmau5 track and still sounded AMAZING --- BEFORE carp got his mitts on the remote. That has nothing to do with the subs when the other three speakers all sounded harsh (to me) and had to be turned down on this particular track (when tested at the admittedly silly volume of +10dB) Left and right separation for movies seems to be the best of the night. I hear distinct channels in movies - which I like! The worst of the treble issues in Speaker A are not present, but there are still some treble issues compared to speaker B. --- None the less - the chains on the LOTR scene zings in for a close second best of the night so far.Goosebumps?
yes for like 1.5 minutes straight -- read the paragraph above. no goosebumps on the MJ clip though like the first two speakers. And while I didn't have goosebumps during my particular song selection I did have incredible emotional attachment to that clean and crazy SPL ceiling --- it was outrageous and provocative and made me hoop and hollar!!!Overall
- When this speaker shines it REALLY shines! Not as refined as speaker B - but it is off the hook on loud and clean in my book for music. I felt the dialogue clarity was a bit less than the previous two speakers which was unfortunate since that's really important for movie watching at reference levels. I felt the highs were a bit harsher than Speaker B. This audition made me go back and adjust a couple scores from previous auditions up or down accordingly and start using half scores. Overall these speakers scored the highest for me, and with the right room (treated, carpeted and somewhat non reflective - they would likely be my recommendation). All was not roses however, and as the attendees will attest - as pumped up as I was about the SPL levels they cleanly played, I had some reservations about the sound when compared to Speaker B after the full length of their demo session.
I figured these were absolutely the JTR
I was wrong - these were the CHT SHO 10 (what the heck?)Does it make sense?
This is a no as well. I've heard the Sho 10's at HuskerOmaha's meet and I recall specifically liking the sound of his speakers and telling him and others such, however these were the smallest, least expensive, and least formidable looking speaker of the meet, and it seems they just edged out to either be neck and neck or in the lead for my personal favorite of the day. Those of you who followed the KC Blind Sub meet earlier in 2012 realize there is a bit of bad blood between Craig Chase and I. I'll leave it at that - - so I personally wouldn't buy these speakers because of that interaction. But I will call a spade a spade and say plainly these CHT SHO 10's to my ear represent a fantastic value and I was very impressed by their capability.Speaker D -
These speakers had the most treble. It started out being very clear treble, and it typically was very clean --- but it was just twice as much treble as anything else it seemed, and by the end of the audition it was just aggravating. I didn't hear much midbass either. It was like the longer these speakers played the less I liked them. The few times I looked around half the group was holding their ears. The volume seemed MUCH louder on these, and it was if you had a treble dial and cranked it all the way to the max. It was overbearing to say the least. You can see in my notes as I progressed from mild to stronger comments. On my DeadMau5 track I had to turn it down and it wasn't because it was distorting, but because it was sooooo incredibly treble laden that i couldn't personally stand it at anywhere near those volumes. A track that Kwarny had chosen that I nicknamed the weed song, had the singer whistling like a train. It was offensive on these speakers. On that same track there was a drumline, and I heard drums on all the other speakers, but didn't heard much in the way of drums on these speakers. To me these speakers don't seem like the kind you would listen to in an intimate setting like carp's room. There are 20 tweeters on each speaker in a line arrray, and you know there are 20. When you are listening to all four speakers in two line arrays stacked you are listening to 80 tweeters and it's not good, at least with the EQ settings we were using --- giving this speaker the benefit of the doubt. It's as bright a speaker as I've ever heard, and I don't like bright speakers -- so this one wasn't going to win my heart. We spent time re-equing it after the blind audition, to listen to it again and it was still rough to me. I don't think I was alone in my feelings on this speaker. Carp had been listening to his rock as high as +4dB above reference and on previous speakers, but on the DR250's he ended up turning them down to -15dB with a grimace. There was a bit of an enigma I couldn't figure out with this speaker. Would you believe it sounded the absolute best of the night on the Michael Jackson track to me? The horn dynamics were incredible! the live sound was amazing. The finger snapping was other worldly good! Unfortunately, and honestly that is the only track I enjoyed during the entire audition of these speakers, both during the blind testing and the subsequent retry after re-eq. If you are treble sensitive - you need not pursue these speakers unless it's a live event, a TOTALLY dead room, or a large space. Sitting 10-15ft away from these things wasn't my cup of tea. For the movie tracks I didn't enjoy these speakers either. The Book of Eli dialogue was terrible the entire way through. Again strangely we watched two Open Range clips and one had great dialogue and one had terrible dialogue. We'd watched these two clips on the other speakers and neither sounded bad on any of the other speakers. Truly an Enigma. DesertDome can plot the frequency responses we gathered. We did spend some time on EQ and plugged in 10 parametric EQs as recommended by REW based on the FRD we imported. We checked the resulting FR post EQ and it did look pretty flat, but man --- you just couldn't knock down that enormous treble bias on these speakers it seemed. Perhaps in a heavily treated room, behind an acoustic transparent screen that might be the ticket. MKTheater seems to like his, but I've got to assume his didn't sound like what we heard at the blind meet. Finally --- everything sounded louder on the DR250. Treble, Bass, overall volume. Only midbass seemed a bit lacking --- with the exception of the Book of Eli clip.Goosebumps?
no way. not even close. I disliked the sound of these speakers on every track save one, and when that track came on I was so agitated from the rest of the demo session it wasn't going to happen. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and blame our EQ. DesertDome just acquired these speakers and hasn't had time to play with them yet and by accounts I've heard - once they are setup correctly they are quite the speaker!Overall
- What more is there to say. Not my cup of tea. I don't like treble bias and these are all that and a bag of chips. Maybe we needed a different EQ curve. I don't think it was that we needed a flatter eq. We had a relatively flat EQ in the sweet spot listening position. DesertDome will likely post the measurements. I rated the treble higher than speaker A only because Speaker A's treble was sometimes a mess, and Speaker D's treble always seemed clear - but just intense to the point of sometimes being painful. I also gave the DR250 a 5 on dynamics - because it was quite apparent it could nail you to the wall with volume if it needed to - it's just we couldn't take it the way it was sounding. They look intense --- I joked they looked like some sort of clam shell based medieval torture device. Don't put your hand in there!!!
I had no Idea what these were at first, but I knew no other speaker I'd ever heard sounded like this so I ended up guessing DR250 and swapping up some of my previous guesses.
I ended up guessing right - these were the DR250.Does it make sense?
I don't know. My listening experience sure doesn't jive with MKTheaters, and I know nothing about these speakers otherwise. I'd be willing to give them another try after someone dialed them in the way they should be. If we were actually listening to it these speakers they way they are designed to be heard then I never need to hear this speaker again. If MKTheater ever holds a subwoofer or speaker meet in the future, then I'll hopefully enjoy getting to hear them the way he loves them.
Here is a link to page 2, post 30 - where all the unaltered score sheets from each of the blind voters are scanned and uploaded.
Here are my original unaltered scoresheets with notes taken during each audition, and my guesses in the top right corner of my scorecard.
Thanks for hosting carp. Thanks for building the blinds, thanks for putting up with the mess, buying so many drinks, and taking the screen smudge all in stride. You are a fabulous host, and this event was a great time. As I've told you time and time before You have a fantastic room.