Alright, so as I search for some higher end speakers, don't get me wrong I love these HTD's for the price, I decided to take my HTD Level two bookshelf speakers to a local AV store and put them up against some higher end speaker offerings. I am in the market for floor standers but figured for surrounds in the future I would compare these HTDs and figure it may put some valuable input out there for people. I am not an audio expert, so these are just Joe Guys opinion.
Keep in mind we are comparing ~$200 dollar speaker with speakers that cost 3x as much.
These were tested on a Marantz 50W Stereo AMP/CD Player, FLAC audio files played through my media player in the aux input in a room that was acoustically treated. I don't how much or with what, but their were panels all over the wall and no echo.
Wayman Tisdale: If you want me to stay
Dave Matthews Live at radio city: Some Devil
Dave Matthews live at radio city: Grace Is gone
Eric Calpton and BB King: 3'O Clock Blues
Adele: Set Fire to the Rain
:Yanni Live at El Morro Puerto Rico: The Rain must fall
AC/DC: Back in black
A few others as well, but these were listened to through and through.
First up the HTD Level Two:
The HTD's have a great neutral sound, maybe a little on the soft side, vocals are clear but sound somewhat held back like someone is singing through a piece of cloth, lows are handled surprisingly well, though do get a little muddy when there is a lot of lower end notes coinciding with each other. Highs sound great for the most part, but somewhat break up with some acoustic tracks when a high note is plucked a little harsh, such as Some Devil by dave matthews and a few small parts in Back in Black, the same with harsh loud high vocals, such as when BB King gets is "scream" , though to my suprise, when adele does in deed set fire to the rain, the speakers never broke a sweat, which is amazing for how high her voice gets. They sound great but some notes just make the tweeters break up and sound a little crackly. I have noticed this in my own experience here at home obviously, but having nothing to compare to side by side, I was unsure if it was an artifact of the track or the speakers themselves. Overall though they do surprisingly well, and being back in my own house not switching back and forth, I still think they sound amazing.
Keep in mind I am comparing all of these with my HTD speakers, as I have no "reference" system for comparison, so I am using a baseline I know really well by now and comparing.
These speakers have a very in your face sound compared to the HTD's, I would not call it Harsh, i personally prefer the brighter sound to my HTD's. They have a bit more detail in the range of frequencies, there doesn't seem to be a single range that outshines the other, in regards to mids, lows and highs, they all blend very well together. The bass is not as much as the HTD to my suprise, given this is a 6.25" driver compared to the 5.25" of the HTD. While there was not as much bass, it did sound much tighter and cleaner than the HTD, it did not struggle on the lower frequencies like the HTD did, while it was not as loud it was clean. Vocals sound much clearer, like the veil of cloth has been lifted, the mids had much more detail overall and while the HTD at times felt like the mids were all blending together, the B&W did a much better job of separating the sounds in the mid range. I would honestly say at this point it comes down to sound preference especially if your going to use a sub, while there is deffinately a little more clarity in what I would call mid range sounds, I think unless you're a true audiophile and listening to these speakers side by side, you would be happy either way. Now where these speakers really shine is their highs, all the wonderful sound coming from that aluminum dome tweeter. The highs on the 685 were just outstanding, while there was a few moments where the tweeter seemed to break up ever so slightly, such as the harsh string plucks of a guitar in the dave matthews recording, it was hardly as noticeable, it was a brief ever so slight hiccup that i really only caught after i went back and played the specific part a few times. The highs were not harsh to my ears at all, they sounded natural to me, maybe a tad bright at times. When listening to 3'O Clock blues, If I closed my eyes I could have sworn BB King was playing his guitar and singing in front of me. Now I will make a brief mention of the 683 Towers here, with the 3 way crossover, 3 O Clock blues was the best sounding thing I have ever heard, more clear and more concise than the 685, granted somewhat comparing apples to oranges here, but HOLY CRAP! The 685's seem like a well rounded bookshelf speaker, they are very natural sounding, sound separations i guess I would call them are much more accurate and easier to pick out, and highs are just out of this world compared to the HTD.
This is going to be more about the KEF Q300 as I listened to this the most, but I will say the only real difference to my ears between the Q100 and the Q300 is the BASS, the Q300 puts out much more low end than the Q100, but mids/highs sounded quite similar.
These speakers I would say sit somewhere in between the HTD and the 685 in regards to being Neutral/Bright. They are not quite as in your face overall and clear as the B&W's but not quite as muffled sounding as the HTD's. The KEF is by far the winner in the BASS department. This speaker for its small size throws out an incredible ammount of bass, I was quite shocked to be honest, it sounded tight and clean, though I do think the B&W sounded a little cleaner despite not putting out as much. The mids I was somewhat let down by, I honestly believe the HTD was a little more detailed in the mid range sound department. Sounds seemed to blend together to much for me with the KEF, I was unable to hear individual instruments as much as I could with the HTD's and even more so with the B&W's. I was really quite shocked given the little I know about KEFs odd driver design, I was expecting them to work quite well together but it seemed like the more mid/high range sounds just blended together to much. The highs were interesting, I always hear people refer to KEF as bright, I will agree somewhat. For the most part I was let down by the highs, while they were always clean like the B&W's but they lacked the detail the HTD's and B&W's had in my opinion, though not with everything, some tracks sounded very detailed while others seemed somewhat dull, the thing that I really did not like is certain high notes/frequencies seemed to really spike on the KEF's, certain notes would get very harsh, while otheres seemed soft. They did not seem as level as other speakers I sampled even going outside of the KEF's and B&W's. I felt like the KEF's were all over the place with their sound while the others seemed to transition between notes quite well. I still think they sounded great, but as you break it down they just felt a little unrefined.
Out of these 3 I would deff say the 685 is the winner. It just overall had the most detail and best sound to me. While it does have its short comings with some harsher highs, I would deffinately take the HTD's second, and the KEF 3rd, despite it being a more expensive speaker and what most would consider a different class of speaker all together, I just felt it lacked overall detail, and to much just did not sound all that great.
Editors Note: Again, I am not an audio expert, this "review" is kind of all over the place, I may have miss used terms, but I hope I explained well enough so that you understand what it is I am saying. This is just my opinion of these 3 speakers and my findings and feelings on them. These speakers all have many listening hours on them, they all used them same test setup, no EQ, just a what you see is what you get type of deal.
EMP E55ti | EMP E56ci | Polk T15's for surround duty | Ultimax 15" Sub | Integra 40.2 | Rotel 976 | Panasonic 60ST60