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post #1 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Budget speakers performing "above their price point" - the new norm?

It seems like for every review of budget or value oriented speakers, the review will state, in more or fewer words, that the speakers perform above their price point. And if the speakers are competently designed and also fall into the value category, it's almost a certainty. Heck, this sort of phrasing also creeps up when you reach past the budget/value camp - "it competes with speakers 2-3 times its price" is one I hear often.

My point of contention is that if most of these good budget speakers perform above its price point, then it actually 'doesn't' perform past its price point because many of its competitors have the same level of performance in a similar pricing bracket. The floor has effectively been raised. Does anyone have any examples of budget speakers that have performance that you would expect from its low price?

I think a large part of this is that reviewers are hesitant to give out bad reviews for whatever reason. The new norm should be "these speakers perform well and as its price indicates" and anything in its price range that doesn't measure up should bluntly be labeled a poor performing speaker for the money.

After all, if everything performs "above its price range" then nothing really does. Certainly there are true, outstanding values to be had, but these speakers should define performance for their price range and other speakers that can't meet the new performance standards should be given poor reviews.

What do you think?
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post #2 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldark View Post
It seems like for every review of budget or value oriented speakers, the review will state, in more or fewer words, that the speakers perform above their price point. And if the speakers are competently designed and also fall into the value category, it's almost a certainty. Heck, this sort of phrasing also creeps up when you reach past the budget/value camp - "it competes with speakers 2-3 times its price" is one I hear often.

My point of contention is that if most of these good budget speakers perform above its price point, then it actually 'doesn't' perform past its price point because many of its competitors have the same level of performance in a similar pricing bracket. The floor has effectively been raised. Does anyone have any examples of budget speakers that have performance that you would expect from its low price?

I think a large part of this is that reviewers are hesitant to give out bad reviews for whatever reason. The new norm should be "these speakers perform well and as its price indicates" and anything in its price range that doesn't measure up should bluntly be labeled a poor performing speaker for the money.

After all, if everything performs "above its price range" then nothing really does. Certainly there are true, outstanding values to be had, but these speakers should define performance for their price range and other speakers that can't meet the new performance standards should be given poor reviews.

What do you think?
You are correct.
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post #3 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 01:12 PM
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bad reviews by professionals probably would mean a loss of a job.

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post #4 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 02:19 PM
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What do I think? Other than there are a lot of nice speakers in the market, I don’t think it matters. I’ve heard many budget-type speakers ($600 down to $200 / pair) that perform well, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) buy them. Same can be said for a few $1500 / pair speakers. What “I” personal feel about a speaker’s value has no meaning to anyone but myself, since it would be different from another person’s sense of value.

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post #5 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 02:43 PM
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Audio reviews are mostly hogwash. Its very rare to find a bad review of a product no matter the price point. There are some genuine values to be found such as the Infinity Primus line though.
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post #6 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsrussell View Post
What do I think? Other than there are a lot of nice speakers in the market, I don’t think it matters. I’ve heard many budget-type speakers ($600 down to $200 / pair) that perform well, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) buy them. Same can be said for a few $1500 / pair speakers. What “I” personal feel about a speaker’s value has no meaning to anyone but myself, since it would be different from another person’s sense of value.
Fair enough. I guess I was speaking mostly about professional reviews where the phrase "performing above its price" has become nearly meaningless to consumers.
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post #7 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by goldark View Post
Fair enough. I guess I was speaking mostly about professional reviews where the phrase "performing above its price" has become nearly meaningless to consumers.
You're absolutely right. It is indeed meaningless. It only has meaning if you have auditioned that reviewed speaker and agree. Then it only has meaning for you and the reviewer . And finding a professional reviewer that you can trust (or often agree with) isn't all that easy. That's where reading reviews from several professional reviewers may help. It's a slippery slope to take anyone's word on anything.
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post #8 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Defcon View Post
Audio reviews are mostly hogwash. Its very rare to find a bad review of a product no matter the price point. There are some genuine values to be found such as the Infinity Primus line though.
I can't tell if that is a serious statement. Do you really think the Primus are a genuine value, or are you trying to be funny?

Sorry, I don't mean to be a jerk. I really can't tell, because they sound bad to me.
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post #9 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP12 View Post
I can't tell if that is a serious statement. Do you really think the Primus are a genuine value, or are you trying to be funny?

Sorry, I don't mean to be a jerk. I really can't tell, because they sound bad to me.
Its personal preference but they have a great reputation - esp the P363, you can read the Primus thread here for reviews.
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post #10 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 05:13 PM
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It depends upon which magazine/site you're looking at. For many places, they won't review a bad speaker. There's a kind of weeding out process to avoid negative reviews so advertisers stay happy. For example, I don't think Stereophile will review Klipsch speakers - unless one model stands out for some reason.
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post #11 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 05:19 PM
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way back in the day hometheater mag reviewed my klipsch ksf 10.5 5.1 system and also reviewed monitor audio silver system which was at a much higher pricepoint. they both got the same score of 4.5 out of 5 if my memory is accurate. that mag is out of business now I believe.

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post #12 of 33 Old 07-20-2016, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by dsrussell View Post
It's a slippery slope to take anyone's word on anything.
I'll take your word on that.

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post #13 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 01:50 AM
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Reviews in ad-supported publications are really infomercials. That's why everything is positive. If somebody wrote "this speaker under-performs others costing half as much", they would never be asked to write another review.
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post #14 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by charmerci View Post
It depends upon which magazine/site you're looking at. For many places, they won't review a bad speaker. There's a kind of weeding out process to avoid negative reviews so advertisers stay happy. For example, I don't think Stereophile will review Klipsch speakers - unless one model stands out for some reason.
No professional reviewer will intentionally throw a speaker under the bus, although I did read one review for a very inexpensive speaker that they gave 1 star to (never seen that before). If they truly don’t like a speaker, they usually won’t review it as you mentioned. Professional reviewers are no different than anyone else, except they audition a lot more speakers. It’s much easier to give a positive review than a negative one. There is always something positive to say, especially when one is careful on the selection of speakers for review.

That being said, does that Z character get paid for his YouTube reviews? Every other speaker is the best speaker he has ever heard, except one. That speaker he threw under the bus .

I usually read a review more than once and often several times. Even those speakers that are rated similarly, doesn’t mean the reviewer doesn’t have a preference. One can usually read between the lines of different reviewed speakers to see how much the reviewer truly likes a speaker. Even then, it doesn’t mean people will agree. It’s simply far too subjective of a topic.

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post #15 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 11:17 AM
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I auditioned the Andrew Jones Pioneers and was reasonable impressed though another speaker sounded better, (I was doing that for a friend...he chose to go with the Pioneers).

Nothing wrong with them, I thought they sounded good for the price.

A few months back on a whim I decided to buy a super cheap, "they gotta suck" pair of bookshelves from Parts Express just for the experience...only $80 for the 3 speakers.

I paired them with the "too cheap to be any good" $90 Yamaha sub for a 3.1 system under $200.

Best bang for the money I've ever heard, to be honest.

Far better than the numerous soundbars I've listened to which, generally, have godawful boomy subs.

I don't hesitate to recommend the Dayton Audio B652's and Dayton Audio C452 center and Yamaha SW012 sub as a result...though in retrospect the $10 more B652 AIR's are said to be even better.

I just wanted to see what "dirt cheap, gotta suck" sounded like and was very surprised.

The Martin Logan LX16's I bought a month before for music sound as good as they should for the $400 I paid for the pair, and obviously better than the Dayton Audios, and if I'd paid MSRP a few years back, ($800), I wouldn't be hugely disappointed.

But the little $200 system definitely is a greater bang for the buck experience given the expectation level I had.

My Usher V602's I paid about $1,200/pair a few years back, for me, are definitely also in the "wow, how can they sound that good for the price" range as well.

The tweeters are actually superior to my ears than the Martin Logan tweeter.

So, bang for the buck: 1=Dayton Audio, 2=Usher, 3=Martin Logan.
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post #16 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 11:24 AM
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[QUOTE=gajCA;45502121]I auditioned the Andrew Jones Pioneers and was reasonable impressed though another speaker sounded better, (I was doing that for a friend...he chose to go with the Pioneers).

Nothing wrong with them, I thought they sounded good for the price.


I bought a full set of AJ , LCR and used the bookshelves for surrounds. I eventually replaced the center with the AJ ELITE model as I found the vocals lacking, after that was happy again. But the AJ ELITE center cost me as much as the L and R tower non ELITES.
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post #17 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP12 View Post

I can't tell if that is a serious statement. Do you really think the Primus are a genuine value, or are you trying to be funny?

Sorry, I don't mean to be a jerk. I really can't tell, because they sound bad to me.
The Infinity Primus p163 really changed my thinking on how much quality speakers cost. To my ears in my room they sound better than any of the much more expensive speakers I've owned. As I think of it now, quality in audio is mostly about the quality of the engineering, which Harman can certainly provide with their double blind listening lab run by Floyd Toole. Price is mostly about economy of scale and marketing. So from this perspective, it should not be surprising that a company as large as Harman could sell a Chinese-made speaker on the Internet that sounds so damn good (at least with a subwoofer or three).
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post #18 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 11:54 AM
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Most ID speakers have good value due to low overhead and are putting the crunch on retailers everywhere....we had a store here in the city that was THE place to go (IMO) for audio/video and after 30 years of business, had to shut it down.

Since sound is subjective, our recommendations to other people are based on what WE hear which may not necessarily be what sounds good to others....the daily threads that show up here with the OP looking to buy speakers with a $300-2000 budget is getting somewhat monotonous but I guess if people dont know how to search, they just ask others to do the work for them.

My "value" speakers that I can highly recommend is Fluance, and based on what I paid for my front 3, how they sound, I believe I have a system that performs well "above their price point".
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post #19 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 02:47 PM
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The main issue is that most high priced speakers don't perform up to their price points.

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post #20 of 33 Old 07-21-2016, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yosh70 View Post
Since sound is subjective, our recommendations to other people are based on what WE hear which may not necessarily be what sounds good to others....the daily threads that show up here with the OP looking to buy speakers with a $300-2000 budget is getting somewhat monotonous but I guess if people dont know how to search, they just ask others to do the work for them.
I kind of agree but it's kind of hard to find too much fault with the recommendations. The feedback is usually really good. There are threads here where someone's narrowed it down to three and the suggestions keep coming and coming. There's always someone saying - go out and listen for yourself!
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post #21 of 33 Old Yesterday, 05:50 AM
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Which, of course, doesn't work because 1.very few places have a variety of speakers set up properly for critical listening and 2.the room plays a tremendous role in the sound of the system.
So, frankly, most of those threads are pretty much useless, though most people would be perfectly happy with any of the recommendations for a good, (relatively) inexpensive set up.
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Eat the fish and spit out the bones - also not everybody has so called perfect hearing. And one needs to remember,
that your set-up and the room plays a part.

As in all things audio - hype and following a certain wave can bring delusion.

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post #23 of 33 Old Yesterday, 08:13 AM
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I think that it is difficult to establish a strict correlation between price and performance for almost anything, and not just for speakers. Autos are one of many examples that come to mind. And that is partly because not all costs are entirely performance related. Build quality, appearance, cachet, marketing, are all things that some people pay more for, and even build quality may not relate directly to performance (particularly in audio).

To me, the main value of professional reviews is to help weed out the speakers with characteristics that we are less likely to want. But, as noted in an earlier post, to do that it is necessary to read reviews carefully, and to look for what isn't being said, as much as for what is being said about a speaker. And reading multiple reviews, particularly those with bench tests, is also helpful.

I look at speaker reviews, whether by professional reviewers or by owners, in much the way that I look at movie reviews. By and large, if a movie isn't reasonably well-reviewed ( at least 3 to 3.5 stars on Netflix, for instance) I probably won't waste my time on it, although there are exceptions to that. But then the fact that other people liked a movie, is still no guarantee that I will. So, I would not be likely to waste my time on a speaker that didn't get pretty good reviews, but I also wouldn't be too shocked if it turned out that a particular speaker didn't appeal to my personal audio preferences.

The point that most reviews try to find something nice to say about a speaker is a valid one, in my opinion. But that's okay, as long as we realize that fact in advance.

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post #24 of 33 Old Yesterday, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yosh70 View Post
Most ID speakers have good value due to low overhead and are putting the crunch on retailers everywhere....we had a store here in the city that was THE place to go (IMO) for audio/video and after 30 years of business, had to shut it down.

Since sound is subjective, our recommendations to other people are based on what WE hear which may not necessarily be what sounds good to others....the daily threads that show up here with the OP looking to buy speakers with a $300-2000 budget is getting somewhat monotonous but I guess if people dont know how to search, they just ask others to do the work for them.

My "value" speakers that I can highly recommend is Fluance, and based on what I paid for my front 3, how they sound, I believe I have a system that performs well "above their price point".
This post says it all for me with the Pioneers. I've been it for awhile and back then I had some pretty darn good speakers until I moved. Completely my opinion and I think they out perform their 250.00 per pair price. That's just me.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldark View Post
budget speakers performing above their price point, the new norm?
More like: Overpriced speakers performing below their price point, the new norm.

But yes, there are a lot of good budget speakers too. (and Technology/Engineering improvements will only make them better.)

Inflation, greed and good marketing causes... Bose LOL

You can sometimes tell just by looking at a speaker that it is garbage, like when the tweeter is far far away from the mids. Take the KEF Muon for example.
It's just bad acoustical engineering. Can you say: comb-filtering?

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Cars usually have a clear return for the extra $$ spent - either in the parts used, performance, or luxury. And its very clear to see what you are getting. e.g. moving up from a family sedan -> luxury sedan -> luxury car -> supercar is a clear progression and improvement in all 3, and price of course.

Its not so in audio at all. You can't even assume you're getting better components (drivers), the only thing you can be really assured of is better looks/finishes the more you pay. Performance is almost completely subjective hence so many decisions are made by reliance on reviews, hence the reviews are bought and paid for.

No other industry has anywhere near the idiocy, fluff, rejection of data, and flat out snake oil and scams as audio. e.g if you told any car manufacturer that they could get by without providing performance figures you'd get laughed out.
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post #27 of 33 Old Today, 05:42 AM
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No other industry has anywhere near the idiocy, fluff, rejection of data, and flat out snake oil and scams as audio.
True, unless you count politics as an industry.
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post #28 of 33 Old Today, 06:45 AM
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Cars usually have a clear return for the extra $$ spent - either in the parts used, performance, or luxury. And its very clear to see what you are getting. e.g. moving up from a family sedan -> luxury sedan -> luxury car -> supercar is a clear progression and improvement in all 3, and price of course.

Its not so in audio at all. You can't even assume you're getting better components (drivers), the only thing you can be really assured of is better looks/finishes the more you pay. Performance is almost completely subjective hence so many decisions are made by reliance on reviews, hence the reviews are bought and paid for.

No other industry has anywhere near the idiocy, fluff, rejection of data, and flat out snake oil and scams as audio. e.g if you told any car manufacturer that they could get by without providing performance figures you'd get laughed out.

Those are all entirely valid points! I used automobiles simply as an illustration of a somewhat general lack of equivalency between price and performance. The $75,000 luxury car may offer superior materials for interior finishes and more hand finishing (build quality), a better appearance, and more cachet, than a $35,000 car. But it may not offer any better measurable performance in terms of horsepower/acceleration, fuel efficiency, storage capacity, safety rating, or anything else.

I agree that it's even worse with speakers, but as has often been discussed, even if someone found a way to standardize speaker measurements, and could force makers to comply (can we say big government?) most of us would probably have some difficulty interpreting those measurements, and correlating them to our preferences. I think it would be more difficult than comparable measurements for carbon emissions or fuel economy.

It seems to be somewhat inescapable that we don't all like precisely the same sounding speakers. (Ribbon, vs silk dome, vs metal dome tweeters, for instance; or electrostatic vs direct driver vs horn.) I'm all for more measurements, and reviews with bench tests can help a bit with that. But I'm not holding my breath for very much meaningful standardization in the audio industry.
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post #29 of 33 Old Today, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Defcon View Post
Its personal preference but they have a great reputation - esp the P363, you can read the Primus thread here for reviews.
No offense, I understand that like any speaker some will love it and some won't. I actually love Infinity's old stuff. I'm not a big fan of the newer lines personally...I find them very fatiguing. That's not to say your opinion is invalid. The original post was worded in such a way I thought you may have been joking was all.


About the OP, I think the real problem is nailing down a hard number where sound quality starts to show very incremental improvements while price skyrockets. Nobody really wants to quantify that, and maybe it is impossible to do. I think if speakers were regulated to show specs in such a way that you could verify a sound signature such as accuracy, top end roll off, bass extension, etc... It would be a much easier market to access. Still it's a crap shoot.

For instance, take Ascend, you get all the information you could possibly want. Even with that though, it's tough to understand what it really means as a consumer. The 170 looks to me like the most accurate speaker they sell. Why is it so cheap? Obviously the bamboo cabinets, fancy (expensive) drivers, and long R&D time for the Sierra has to be taken into account, but does it sound "better"? It doesn't appear to be as accurate. Perhaps it is more forgiving?

What can I expect to get from a four figure speaker that I cannot get from something under $500? Nobody seems to be able to answer those kind of questions.

Frankly, I've become tired of throwing money at the problem. I will only choose speakers which I can audition, ideally for free. This limits my options, but mitigates my risk. Even with all that, I am lost. I am probably 85% of where I want to be with my current Mirage speakers. I know that I will always feel the urge to upgrade them though because I am not blown away, I want to be blown away. I want to feel that tinge of "It's just not possible" when I listen to music. Because of that, I have a love/hate relationship with speakers and I have a lot of speakers, too many. I wish I had done more research, more auditioning, more saving, and made a hefty investment right up front to last me for a decade or more.

In my area it is impossible to move old stuff for any kind of reasonable price as well. There are some Energy RC50s sitting on Craigslist for $350, that is for four of them and a center. I can't believe they haven't sold yet. I want to buy them, but see above points.

This confusing and disjointed post sums up my conflicted relationship with Hi-fi audio. I'm always confused, always reaching for the next step up, always spending too much money for speakers I don't need and not enough for those I do. I say it is because I can't be assured that the next $2k I spend on a new set of speakers will make me stop looking.

I can rest assured if I spend $2k on most anything else I'll know what I'm getting. With all the great "budget" speakers, the magic still seems to be delegated to the rich. So where does a middle class guy such as myself draw the line?
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post #30 of 33 Old Today, 07:06 AM
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^^

I feel your pain. I was lucky enough to find some speakers many years ago that I really like, and although I have heard, and tried, other speakers since, I love the ones I have always loved. But it's a complete crap shoot to find something you love. Like yourself, I would have a very tough time auditioning all the potential speakers I might want to try. And without in-home auditions, it might still be very difficult to make really informed choices.

The good news is that we have an almost infinite variety of speakers to choose from, at innumerable price points. The bad news repeats that sentence.
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