Energy RC-10 vs Cambridge Audio S30 - Rookie Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 08:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

I'm no expert and haven't near the experience of some of the guys around here, but I've recently been comparing my RC-10s and CA S30s and thought I'd share my thoughts. As background, my only decent speakers have been an Infinity Primus 5.1 tower w/ a home build sub setup about 5 years ago. For the past 2 years I've had an Energy RC-10 4.1 setup with an Emotiva Ultra10 sub. I have some decent headphones and also dabble in recording and producing music.

This past week i picked up a pair of Cambridge Audio S30 bookshelf's to use as Zone 2 speakers in the kitchen. Since i had them both out, i decided to compare the S30s and rC10s in 2.0 stereo using my Denon 1913's Direct mode. (No sub, full range, no Audessey, no EQ, etc). For material i used the hdtracks 2013 hirez sampler along with the 2013 (new master of some sort) 24/96 of the Eagle's Hotel California. Each pair was setup on stands, the RC10s had the tweeters at ear level, the S30s are shorter and the tweeters were a bit low so i slouched a bit on the couch. ha. There is about 12" of space between the backs of the speakers and the wall behind. Also note that without any room processing, everything I observe could simply be due to my room.

I first started by listening through the material in Direct mode with the RC-10s. Running Direct mode is quite a change from what I'm used to hearing with Audessey and the sub on. I spent a good hour listening to random music to orient my ears. I then listened through most of the material with the RC-10s a a baseline. Then i switched them out for the S30s, listened through most of the material again. Then i switched back to the RC-10s for some follow up time.

Short story: Both speakers lived up to their reputations. The RC-10s are full and middy with a rolled off high end. They're transparent and airy. The S30s are pretty much the opposite in that they're tighter and much brighter, but less full. Their imaging is sharp.

Longer story: Honestly, as soon as I turned the S30s on after the RC-10 baseline, i was like "wow". They seem much more alive in the high end, more sparkle, crispness, etc. It was like a blanket was taken off the RC-10s. Actually, it was like Audessey was turned back on. I noticed in looking at Audessey's EQ for the RC-10s that they boost a lot in the 10khz range. Now, sometimes something different or hyped sounds good because its fresh. I did notice on some songs like the Patricia Barber on the HDtracks sampler, the sibilance got a little out of hand and was a bit grating. I also noticed over time that the treble started wearing on my ears.

The mid range of both speakers is pretty great. I couldn't really tell much of a difference. Vocals sounded great, violins sounded warm and woody. All really nice.

The low end definitely goes to the RC-10s. It hard to say if they really have deeper bass extension or if just the tonal balance of the speakers as a whole, but the RC-10s are on the deep/full end while the S30s are the bright, but thinner end. Both played guitar baselines nice and tight though. Kick drums sounded fuller and punchier with the RC-10s.

I would also say that the S30s image sharper. It was easier to pinpoint where a vocalist or instrument was placed. When i switched back to the RC-10s i noticed the stage was a little more blurred.

The RC-10s also have a little more of a sense of airiness and transparency. While its close, and i'm not sure if its a function of how the tweeters are balanced, the RC-10s seem a little more like music is coming out of the air and the S30s just a little more like music coming from a good speaker.

Summary: At first i was worried when i played the S30s. They really sounded alive. They really sounded "hirez". Really crisp and clear, even my fiancee noticed right away. However they did over do the treble in places and were downright unpleasant on a couple songs. I think if the S30 could be dialed back just a bit it'd really be spot on. Also, i think the S30s are more nasally than the RC10s which i think sound flatter

It did make me realize that maybe i'm not a "laid back" speaker person as the RC-10s without processing could really use a little more sparkle up top in my opinion. Since these speakers each really represent opposite ends of the spectrum, I'm really interested in finding something in the middle.

It also made me realize how much Audessey is doing for me. Turning it on with either speaker pretty much turns them into the same middle-ground sounding speaker. Do speakers even matter? smile.gif
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post #2 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:05 AM
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Nice write up, and I agree with most of it.

I kept the RC-10's over the S30 for the same reasons you felt the S30 could be better - ie. the more noticeable sibilance and slightly too forward sound that could be a little too much at times.

One thing I felt a little different about was the low end - for me, while the RC10 was DEFINITELY fuller sounding, I always felt the low mid through bass range of the RC-10 was a little too congested and emphasized. I really liked how clean that range sounds on the S30.

The problem for me though was that the upper mids through treble range was just a bit too much in relation to the lower part of the spectrum, so the speaker still seemed to lack the appropriate balance and fullness.

Like you though, it did make me more aware of the opposite balance with the RC-10 - the overemphasized low end of the spectrum... and I've been on what seems like a never ending quest to find something more in the middle in terms of tonal balance.

The NHT Classic Three strikes me as a good example - a little low end warmth, but very pretty neutral through most of the spectrum... overall just a very good speaker. But also ALOT more expensive. In terms of more affordable options - I might be onto something with the Arx A1b I recently got my hands on, but too early to say.
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post #3 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:11 AM
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I've never felt Audyssey by itself made huge changes to the sound of a speaker - at times noticeable, but still subtle... but Dynamic EQ/Dynamic Volume, IMO, do really color the sound, and often not in a good way, as I find the bass is almost always boosted too much. For music listening , I always make sure they're off. For movies, I value Dynamic Volume because I don't like the wild swings in SPL inherent to movie soundtracks... just wish Dynamic EQ didn't color the sound so much.

I really wish Dolby Volume would become more affordable for companies to license, so more AVRs would include it. I just can't bring myself to getting a HK receiver for Dolby Volume, with all the other quirks and lack of features that come along with it. I actually don't even think the new Harman AVRs have Dolby Volume anymore.
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post #4 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by alphaiii View Post

and I've been on what seems like a never ending quest to find something more in the middle in terms of tonal balance.

Maybe your just addicted to buying speakers. smile.gif

They mystery is - that you owned 2 pairs of the Cambridge, and you never sent one in to be modded?
The modded Cambridge is a step up - and a good sounding speaker.

The prototype modded BS22 speaker, is due to hit my door today.

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post #5 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Maybe your just addicted to buying speakers. smile.gif

Well, there is that...
Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

They mystery is - that you owned 2 pairs of the Cambridge, and you never sent one in to be modded?
The modded Cambridge is a step up - and a good sounding speaker.

The prototype modded BS22 speaker, is due to hit my door today.

I actually did ask Dennis about modding a pair, but he mentioned the with what appeared to be a change in the woofer, the mod is no longer appropriate.

I imagine the modded pair you have would be alot more to my liking... since it addresses the aspects of the response that I think are what I'm not liking in the stock version.
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post #6 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post

It did make me realize that maybe i'm not a "laid back" speaker person as the RC-10s without processing could really use a little more sparkle up top in my opinion. Since these speakers each really represent opposite ends of the spectrum, I'm really interested in finding something in the middle.

It also made me realize how much Audessey is doing for me. Turning it on with either speaker pretty much turns them into the same middle-ground sounding speaker. Do speakers even matter? smile.gif

I fired Audyssey and the others a while back - they can not replace good resolution.

If you had a higher budget - then I might have recommended the Boston E60 - a very good speaker
http://www.amazon.com/Boston-Acoustics-E60-Performance-Bookshelf/dp/B001H9O1CQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385141552&sr=8-1&keywords=boston+e60

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post #7 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Maybe your just addicted to buying speakers. smile.gif

They mystery is - that you owned 2 pairs of the Cambridge, and you never sent one in to be modded?
The modded Cambridge is a step up - and a good sounding speaker.

The prototype modded BS22 speaker, is due to hit my door today.

The one Dennis modded?

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post #8 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post

The one Dennis modded?

Yes

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post #9 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:40 AM
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I would be curious to see how the Arx A1b and NHT Absolute Zero compare.

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post #10 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zieglj01 View Post

Yes

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

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post #11 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:44 AM
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I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it!

I will also compare it to the modded Cambridge S30 - and for the fun of it, the Boston E60
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post #12 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 10:48 AM
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I would be curious to see how the Arx A1b and NHT Absolute Zero compare.

It's been awhile since I've heard the Absolute Zeros, but one thing that sticks in my memory is that they didn't like being pushed too hard - they got a bit edgy/harsh. Otherwise, I thought the were well balanced speakers. Bass was respectable given the small size and sealed cabinet, but overall extension and punch was limited, and certainly not on par with the S30 (I did compare those directly).

I haven't listened to the A1b a whole lot yet, but they seem to remain pretty comfortable even when pushed a bit. In terms of tonal balance, they seem pretty neutral to me, but maybe just slightly forward. They're not bright, but I wouldn't call them a warm speaker either. Bass is clean, with decent extension, but is not exaggerated at all, and there is no "fake base" (ie. British-style upper bass bump) going on.

Without having the 2 side by side for comparison, it's hard to say much else about them.
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post #13 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 11:02 AM
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Its hard to found a tweeter that will give you a sparkle sound without a notable sibilance, even tweeters that measure perfectly flat introduce a very notable sibilance ,a roll off is almost always the solution but you lost detail.

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post #14 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 11:07 AM
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I for sure do not want a speaker or tweeter, that will cover up/darken the sound - and there are some poor recordings out there.

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post #15 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 11:18 AM
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Its hard to found a tweeter that will give you a sparkle sound without a notable sibilance, even tweeters that measure perfectly flat introduce a very notable sibilance ,a roll off is almost always the solution but you lost detail.

The Polk LSi series was very impressive, I heard the LSi9 and they were wonderful. They have that sparkle that everyone is chasing without being harsh, and I would love to hunt down a pair.

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post #16 of 16 Old 11-22-2013, 11:31 AM
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Yes I had read good things about the sound of the LSi ring radiator tweeter.

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