Passive small footprint speakers for desktop nearfield listening (v. PC speakers / no sub). - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 39 Old 08-29-2012, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking at options for a reasonably small footprint passive speakers to be used with a PC on a desktop in a nearfield setup. There won't be a subwoofer.

So far I found the Audioengine P4, Cambridge S30, and NHT SuperZero 2.0 in my search.

What else should I take a look at that offers good bang for the buck / high performance?
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post #2 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 07:58 AM
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I recommend the Jamo C603. Great pair of speakers, you will not need a subwoofer and it's about the best bang for the buck I know of.
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post #3 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. The Jamo C603 a little big at 6.9" x 13.6" x 11.3" (W x H x D). I don't think I can accommodate something that large on my desk.

The Audioengine P4 is 5.5" x 9" x 6.5" (W x H x D). The Cambridge Audio S30 is 6.3 x 8.9 x 9.2”. The NHT SuperZero 2.0 is 5.5" x 9" x 5".

I've also come across the Definitive Technology ProMonitor 800 which is 4.75" x 8.375" x 5" and the Definitive Technology ProMonitor 1000 at 6.25" x 10.875" x 6.5". Also the NHT Absolute Zero at 5.625" x 9.75" x 7.25".

I want good quality sound, but it needs to fit on my desk without taking up a huge amount of space.
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post #4 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 02:36 PM
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I have some Energy RC-10s that I use in a PC setup. I actually upgraded from the Cambridge S30s and like the RC-10s better. They do need to be placed at least 6 inches out from the wall because of the rear ports (as should other rear ported speakers--bass port needs to breathe). They may be a little big big for you, though.

Otherwise, out of what you have listed so far, I'd go with the NHTs. Sealed speakers, so they can go close to the wall if you have to.

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post #5 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 02:59 PM
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Of the speakers mentioned in this thread, I've owned/demo'd: RC-10, S30, SZ 2.0, and P4.

Without a sub, the NHT and P4 sound lean to me. The SZ 2.0 has essentially no bass, and the P4 sounds a little bright to my ears. For me, they both need a sub, especially the NHT.

I prefer the RC-10 over the S30 in general. For nearfield, I guess it'd depend on the constraints of the setup. The footprint is similar, with the RC-10 being a good bit taller. The S30 is more forward in the upper mids/lower treble, which, depending on personal tastes could be a bit much nearfield. That said, on the lower end, I think the S30 works better if close to a rear wall, although it's still not ideal.

When I had the RC-10 on my desk, they were up against the rear wall... Without plugging the ports, the bass was too boomy and overpowering. WIth the ports plugged, I didn't feel they had enough bass to make me happy without a sub. If I had free space behind my desk though, and could elevate them off the surface a bit, the RC-10 would be my pick.


Throwing a bit of a curveball here, but I'd recommend checking out the Emotiva Airmotiv4. They are the first smallish speaker that doesn't leave me missing a subwoofer, and despite being about 1" from the rear wall, the bass doesn't sound boomy to me. On top of that, the tweeter is really nice. They aren't laid back in the highs, but they don't sound bright or fatiguing. Plus, you can tilt down the highs a little, which I did. The looks won't suit everyone.... but for me, the size/sound/price all made me happy.
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post #6 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 03:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Does anyone have any thoughts on the Peachtree Audio DS4.5? They're reasonably sized (5.8" w x 9.6" h x 6.8" d) and are reportedly designed for desktop PC usage.
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post #7 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 03:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

Throwing a bit of a curveball here, but I'd recommend checking out the Emotiva Airmotiv4. They are the first smallish speaker that doesn't leave me missing a subwoofer, and despite being about 1" from the rear wall, the bass doesn't sound boomy to me. On top of that, the tweeter is really nice. They aren't laid back in the highs, but they don't sound bright or fatiguing. Plus, you can tilt down the highs a little, which I did. The looks won't suit everyone.... but for me, the size/sound/price all made me happy.
I wasn't really looking for an active set of speakers, but they looks interesting. I'll give them some thought.
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post #8 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stereodude View Post

Does anyone have any thoughts on the Peachtree Audio DS4.5? They're reasonably sized (5.8" w x 9.6" h x 6.8" d) and are reportedly designed for desktop PC usage.

Had those too.... they were my preferred desktop speaker for awhile. To me, they're a little "closed in" sounding, but not too much. They're pleasant speakers - never sounding harsh or edgy to me.

I replaced them with a used pair of Boston Acoustic E40's, which I felt had better imaging and a more open sound. That said, the DS4.5 had more bass and the highs weren't as in your face as the E40, which was a good thing for nearfield. The E40 was another speaker that for me, really needed a sub.... The DS4.5 has a bit of an upper bass bump, so with some music it doesn't sound shy like the Boston E40 did.

Ultimately, I didn't want to have a sub in my office, which led me to demo the Airmotiv4. They're still here, and I sold both the E40 and DS4.5. Either way, the DS4.5 is a nice speaker for nearfield use...

Another nice small passive speaker is the PSB Image B4. I had that prior to the Peachtree. Really nice sound, a little laid back... but they don't have alot of bass on their own either. I liked the DS4.5 a bit better, and the Peachtree has more low end (even if it's due to an upper bass bump)...
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post #9 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 05:28 PM
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Take a look at these JohnBlue JB3: http://www.johnblue-audio.com/

I was also looking for small footprint desktop speaker and considered those you already listed. I was sold on the Cambridge S30 until the JB3 were recommended. An even smaller footprint and the sound, as well as build quality, is excellent.

These are no longer sold in the US but if you email JB, you can buy them. Customer service is excellent and I received the speakers in less than 5 business days. Under $300, shipping included.

Should you not like them (can't imagine the case) you could resell domestically and recover your purchase price.
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post #10 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

Had those too.... they were my preferred desktop speaker for awhile. To me, they're a little "closed in" sounding, but not too much. They're pleasant speakers - never sounding harsh or edgy to me.
I replaced them with a used pair of Boston Acoustic E40's, which I felt had better imaging and a more open sound. That said, the DS4.5 had more bass and the highs weren't as in your face as the E40, which was a good thing for nearfield. The E40 was another speaker that for me, really needed a sub.... The DS4.5 has a bit of an upper bass bump, so with some music it doesn't sound shy like the Boston E40 did.
Ultimately, I didn't want to have a sub in my office, which led me to demo the Airmotiv4. They're still here, and I sold both the E40 and DS4.5. Either way, the DS4.5 is a nice speaker for nearfield use...
Another nice small passive speaker is the PSB Image B4. I had that prior to the Peachtree. Really nice sound, a little laid back... but they don't have alot of bass on their own either. I liked the DS4.5 a bit better, and the Peachtree has more low end (even if it's due to an upper bass bump)...
You are most definitely a serial speaker buyer. eek.gif Are there any small speakers you haven't tried? tongue.gif

A few questions if you'll indulge me.

1) How long have you had the Airmotiv4?
2) What is your record for keeping one of these speakers on your desk?
3) Have you stopped looking for speakers to use in your office?
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post #11 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 06:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevensctt View Post

Take a look at these JohnBlue JB3: http://www.johnblue-audio.com/
I was also looking for small footprint desktop speaker and considered those you already listed. I was sold on the Cambridge S30 until the JB3 were recommended. An even smaller footprint and the sound, as well as build quality, is excellent.
These are no longer sold in the US but if you email JB, you can buy them. Customer service is excellent and I received the speakers in less than 5 business days. Under $300, shipping included.
Should you not like them (can't imagine the case) you could resell domestically and recover your purchase price.

Glad that someone can still get them - I have been interested in them.
A nice review from 6Moons
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/johnblue/jb3.html

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post #12 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 07:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Glad that someone can still get them - I have been interested in them.
A nice review from 6Moons
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/johnblue/jb3.html

The JB3 exceeded my expectations and the transaction with JB was exceptional. These are keepers, will always be a place for them.
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post #13 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 07:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stereodude View Post

You are most definitely a serial speaker buyer. eek.gif Are there any small speakers you haven't tried? tongue.gif
A few questions if you'll indulge me.
1) How long have you had the Airmotiv4?
2) What is your record for keeping one of these speakers on your desk?
3) Have you stopped looking for speakers to use in your office?

Yeah, I am.... and that's not a good thing. My girlfriend wants to strangle me at times.

Some of the speakers weren't bought with the intent of using them on my desktop - Energy RC-10, NHT Absolute Zero, Cambridge S30 - I just tried them out there at some point while I had them.

For example, I had the RC-10 as mains in my living room for 2.5 years or so (excluding the time I had others in their place to demo).... I decided to try them in my office after I upgraded my main setup to NHT Classic 3's... just to make sure I wouldn't regret selling the RC-10... The NHT SZ 2.0 and Absolute Zero were really meant to be bedroom speakers... but also spent time on my desktop.

Anyway...

1) I've had the Airmotiv for almost exactly 2 months.

2) Hmm.... I honestly don't remember which speaker I had on my desk the longest, or how long it was. If I had to guess, it was probably the PSB Image B4, but I did try/buy/resell other speakers during the time I owned them. Some of the others were: Mirage OMD-5, John Blue JB3, Tangent Evo4, NHT Absolute Zero. I really liked the B4 with a sub... the Absolute Zero too (when I had the Gizmo integrated amp with the built in 100Hz xover)... but neither made me happy when run full range without a sub. Personally, I wasn't wowed by the JB3, although still thought it was nice sounding.... and I thought the Evo4 had harsh "glassy" treble.

3) I've stopped actively looking... but that doesn't mean I won't try something else if I find a deal I like. The difficult thing is finding a speaker that isn't overly large that can still play some actual bass on it's own, without it costing an arma and a leg. Like I mentioned, the Airmotiv4 is the first that's really hit those goals for me.

I'd still like to hear the Boston Acoustics VS240 (if I can find a pair) and the PSB Imagine Mini.... but I suspect both will need a sub... and neither is cheap.
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post #14 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

I'd still like to hear the Boston Acoustics VS240 (if I can find a pair)
Thanks for the reply. FWIW, there's a pair on ebay right now at $500 shipped wink.gif.
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post #15 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 09:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stereodude View Post

Thanks for the reply. FWIW, there's a pair on ebay right now at $500 shipped wink.gif.

They are really good - and do have nice bass > the Cambridge S30 has more bass. However,
the Boston is in another league overall > with the detail, definition and depth. The VS 240 still
has the decent bass response, and will be enough for some people.

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post #16 of 39 Old 08-30-2012, 10:21 PM
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You already mentioned Def Tech but what about the SM350 that are on sale at Newegg for $200? Probably one of the better "small" speakers in the bass department that can be ran without a sub.

(H x W x D): 10.7" x 6.9" x 9.7"

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882325059
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post #17 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 12:44 AM
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b&w mm1. great for nearfield. no sub but they are not passive...

http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Speakers/iPod-and-Computer-Speakers/MM-1/overview.html
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post #18 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt34 View Post

You already mentioned Def Tech but what about the SM350 that are on sale at Newegg for $200? Probably one of the better "small" speakers in the bass department that can be ran without a sub.
(H x W x D): 10.7" x 6.9" x 9.7"
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882325059

Those might be a good choise on a desktop, since the output below 800Hz is shelved down a bit... Putting them on a desk will reinforce the low end and bring it more in line with the treble... rather than exaggerating the bass.


- Hometheater.com (SM 350 is purple curve)

I do wonder if they would still sound a little bright?
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post #19 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 08:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

Those might be a good choise on a desktop, since the output below 800Hz is shelved down a bit... Putting them on a desk will reinforce the low end and bring it more in line with the treble... rather than exaggerating the bass.

I do wonder if they would still sound a little bright?

I would still put bumper feet under the speakers. Even on stands they have nice bass
response - and the room plays a part.

For someone with your sensitive ears, they may sound slightly bright.smile.gif
However, they are more refined, smooth and balanced sounding, than the Polk RTi series.

For $200 a real nice deal.

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post #20 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 04:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

Those might be a good choise on a desktop, since the output below 800Hz is shelved down a bit... Putting them on a desk will reinforce the low end and bring it more in line with the treble... rather than exaggerating the bass.

- Hometheater.com (SM 350 is purple curve)
I do wonder if they would still sound a little bright?
That's not exactly the 26Hz extension they advertise in that measurement. wink.gif Since I don't like bright speakers that might not be a good such a good idea.

I made a cardboard mockup today at work of the Airmotiva4 to get a feel for the size or it and other speakers. I think I need to rearrange my desk some before I buy anything. Space where a pair of speakers should go is at a bit of a premium.
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post #21 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 06:40 PM
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The treble is shelved up based on the measurements... but I haven't heard them so I'm not saying they are bright. Jim doesn't seem to find them bright.

And placing them on a desk will elevate the low end...
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post #22 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

The treble is shelved up based on the measurements... but I haven't heard them so I'm not saying they are bright. Jim doesn't seem to find them bright.
And placing them on a desk will elevate the low end...
To some people they may sound bright - since there is no bass
rise, or bump. There is no since of warmth with them - and the
bass is not mushy or loose. Over-all they are with-in a +/- 2db
window from 200 to 10khz, and no treble bump after 10khz. If
one is use to a laid back type, or slightly warm speaker > then
maybe look for something else. The poor and harsh recordings
will not be covered over. The tweeter is decent - however, not
as good as the Boston E40 and VS240 speakers.

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post #23 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 08:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

To some people they may sound bright - since there is no bass
rise, or bump. There is no since of warmth with them - and the
bass is not mushy or loose. Over-all they are with-in a +/- 2db
window from 200 to 10khz, and no treble bump after 10khz. If
one is use to a laid back type, or slightly warm speaker > then
maybe look for something else. The poor and harsh recordings
will not be covered over. The tweeter is decent - however, not
as good as the Boston E40 and VS240 speakers.

Thanks for the input Jim.

Just curious - How would you compare the DefTech tweeter to the tweeter in the NHT Two/Absolute Zero? I spent some time comparing the E40 and AZ... so that might help me get a rough idea of where the SM350 falls in comparison.
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post #24 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 09:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

Thanks for the input Jim.
Just curious - How would you compare the DefTech tweeter to the tweeter in the NHT Two/Absolute Zero? I spent some time comparing the E40 and AZ... so that might help me get a rough idea of where the SM350 falls in comparison.

For me, the tweeters in the E and VS series are more refined, with higher resolution,
over the NHT. To me, NHT has a good tweeter - however, with less resolution. The
NHT is slightly more refined, than the Definitive tweeter > Definitive and NHT, both
have good detail, with Definitive sounding a little more lively, and NHT a little more
on the analytical/clinical side.

Another speaker with a good tweeter, is the Focal Chorus.

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post #25 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 09:13 PM
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Listening to Absolute Zero's as i type and the sound every bit refined and smooth. But let's be realistic, with the OP's size limitations, NO speaker is going to provicde adeuqate bass response on it's own. My Zero's are paired up with a 10" sub tucked under my desk and absolutely nothing is lacking in this system over either of my full range systems at all. The sealed alignment of the NHT allows for an easier and smoother transition to a sub with no phase issues from a port to deal with and there's no need to high pass the NHT's either......their 2nd order rolloff matches perfectly with most subs built in low pass filter.

My recommendation.........get or build a small sealed subwoofer system. they're very easy to hide under a desk. It will improve upon ANY bookshelf 2way.....period.
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post #26 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 09:26 PM
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I'd add Ascend 170SEs into the mix. A little on the fat side (12 x 9 x 10"), rear ported, but sound very nice for the price. I like my S30s very much also. I've not used either nearfield, though.

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post #27 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 09:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mayhem13 View Post

Listening to Absolute Zero's as i type and the sound every bit refined and smooth. But let's be realistic, with the OP's size limitations, NO speaker is going to provicde adeuqate bass response on it's own. My Zero's are paired up with a 10" sub tucked under my desk and absolutely nothing is lacking in this system over either of my full range systems at all. The sealed alignment of the NHT allows for an easier and smoother transition to a sub with no phase issues from a port to deal with and there's no need to high pass the NHT's either......their 2nd order rolloff matches perfectly with most subs built in low pass filter.
My recommendation.........get or build a small sealed subwoofer system. they're very easy to hide under a desk. It will improve upon ANY bookshelf 2way.....period.

My experience was a bit different with the Absolute Zero. I really liked them on my desktop when I was using the Gizmo amp with a built in 100Hz high pass.

When I switched over to an Audioengine N22, running them full range, there was something that didn't work for me. Despite being sealed, I felt there was some upper bass thickness/lack of definition. Without a sub, they don't extend deep enough or have enough punch... with a sub, there was still that upper bass thickness.

For me, they just worked better when I high passed them at 100Hz, and had a sub handling the lows. I really enjoyed that setup.

I have to agree though - most of the options mentioned that fit the size limits are not going to have much in the way of bass.
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post #28 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

For me, the tweeters in the E and VS series are more refined, with higher resolution,
over the NHT. To me, NHT has a good tweeter - however, with less resolution. The
NHT is slightly more refined, than the Definitive tweeter > Definitive and NHT, both
have good detail, with Definitive sounding a little more lively, and NHT a little more
on the analytical/clinical side.
Another speaker with a good tweeter, is the Focal Chorus.

I thought the E40 was a bit more resolving too - but maybe to a fault at times. Depending on the source, the highs could seem a bit "in my face" and sometimes sibilants got a little irritating to me. I like both the E40 and AZ, and think each did some things better than the other.

The VS series tweeter is interesting - It's lively for sure, and very resolving, but unless the material is poor, it's doesn't get edgy to me. I spent more time this past weekend comparing the VS260 and NHT Three, and I'd confidently say it's more resolving than the Three's tweeter, even though the NHT tweeter is pretty dang good, and smooth sounding. I like the highs of the Three a little more than those of the Absolute Tower/Zero - not sure if it's the tweeter itself or the voicing that I prefer.

At some point, I'll have to give DefTech a listen... but for now, there's just nowhere for them to go - I'm really digging the Airmotiv4 on my desktop. They don't image as well as the E40, and the mids might be a little reserved in comparison... but they have ALOT more bass, and the highs are smoother, yet still clean and detailed.
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post #29 of 39 Old 08-31-2012, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

I thought the E40 was a bit more resolving too - but maybe to a fault at times. Depending on the source, the highs could seem a bit "in my face" and sometimes sibilants got a little irritating to me.

The VS series tweeter is interesting - It's lively for sure, and very resolving, but unless the material is poor, it's doesn't get edgy to me. I spent more time this past weekend comparing the VS260 and NHT Three, and I'd confidently say it's more resolving than the Three's tweeter, even though the NHT tweeter is pretty dang good, and smooth sounding. I like the highs of the Three a little more than those of the Absolute Tower/Zero - not sure if it's the tweeter itself or the voicing that I prefer.

At some point, I'll have to give DefTech a listen.

I'm really digging the Airmotiv4 on my desktop.

Some poor recordings tend to highlight the sibilants more - you have commented that you
are sensitive to sibilance, even when hearing voices live.

I like the tweeter in the VS series more.

The E40, is really voiced to be out in the room and will perform better there, and will really
work well as satellite speakers.

Continue to enjoy, your new desk-top speakers.

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Who and Where - is the Way, the Truth and the Life?

Speakers > MB Quart VS05, Boston VS260, Snell K7
Subwoofer > Mordaunt Short Aviano 7
Receiver > Tascam PAR-200, Pioneer VSX-30
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post #30 of 39 Old 09-01-2012, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

My experience was a bit different with the Absolute Zero. I really liked them on my desktop when I was using the Gizmo amp with a built in 100Hz high pass.
Hmm... I had forgotten the Gizmo has a high pass on the powered speaker outputs. I guess I need a new plan for an amp, or I should stick to powered speakers.
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