Forgive me if this is the wrong place to post this but I need some guidance/advice (this is my first post on avsforum). I got interested in hifi about two years ago but deferred until I finished my graduate studies last month to really start my hifi research. I have learned a lot in the past month or so but have barely scratched the surface.
I initially envisioned a large 2.0 system with many components including a turntable and cd player with big speakers. I started my auditions with the Paradigm Studio 20s, B&W 685s and Totem Rainmakers. The Studio 20s won the initial audition but I quickly realized that I was not working in a vacuum. I have severe spatial constraints living in a rather small apartment. There is no room for floor standers or speaker stands which means that I am limited to a desktop setup for the near future. Upon this realization I shifted focus to electronics.
I wanted to find a single box that contained the integrated amp and dac and initially settled on the TEAC AI-501DA
. However, I realized that I might want more power and that the onboard dac was not the greatest so I decided to buy the TEAC AX-501
. My sources will be my Mac Pro (optical out into a FiiO Dac at first) and an Airport Express. I know that you are "supposed to buy speakers first" but I couldn't resist the form factor. I still have not received the unit as I had to order from a non-local retailer (a B&M store in Wisconsin). My focus then shifted back to speakers.
I decided to expand my search beyond the initial store and kept reading about the Zensors and how great they are for the price. I quickly learned about the US markup but would have no problem paying if they lived up to their reputation. I was also attracted to the idea of buying Danish speakers as I've almost always driven Saab and Volvo and like the Scandinavian aesthetic and design principles. I went to a retailer that carried part of the DALI lineup, as well as Dynaudio and other really high-end stuff. I initially demoed the Dali Ikon 1 MK2 against the Dynaudio Excite x12 that they had discounted for $100 retail from when they were discontinued. Both models were retailing for $1100. I liked both and noticed a much more significant soundstage than I experienced with the Paradigms. Perhaps it was the fact that I was sitting much closer, but I think it was quite obvious (I doubt most things I sense because I am so new to this). We were approaching closing time but I did get to briefly hear the Zensor 1 and liked it for sure but cannot really comment too much.
I went back the next day (yesterday) despite being an hour away for some more demo time but focused on the Ikon and Dynaudio. I think I convinced myself that the DALI produced more detail and that I did not miss the loss in bass (I didn't really notice too much but perhaps it was there). He then played the famous KEF LS50s for me but honestly I think the added power and bass muffled some of the detail I realized I loved so much after the DALI audition. I know that everyone loves the LS50 (including the salespeople at the store) but I don't think it is the speaker for me. Perhaps I am a bit biased because I am not a fan of the aesthetics but I think the lack of detail was there. And of course there is the issue of needing a strong enough amp which I may not have at 65wpc. Just to satisfy my curiosity I asked to hear the Mentor 1 which was way above my initial budget. The fit and finish is quite attractive. During my Ikon audition I noticed perhaps a bit of what I assume people mean by fatigue. It was not pain but it also wasn't purely comfortable. This was not the case with the Mentor. Perhaps this has to do with break-in or perhaps it is a matter of the more robust construction and curved walls or different drivers? Basically there are so many variables but I actually started to rationalize spending $$$ on the Mentors, even though I originally wanted to spend much less for this temporary setup until I could really build my dream setup.
Now today I find out the Mentor line is being phased out. Might I expect a price reduction on the Mentor 1? Should I spring for the Mentor 2 if there is a price reduction (the store doesn't stock the 2)? I am planning on buying a cheap used set of speakers to break in the amp so that I can bring it back to the store for the next audition but perhaps I should just get the Zensors and call it a day until I move and can build the big system. I really like the DALI sound (at least I think I do) but might be hesitant to spend so much on something that will no longer be available (maybe I'd want to add Mentor 5s later). The Rubicons are too big and too expensive. Perhaps I should just get the Dynaudios (real wood veneer) and be happy but I think I really would like to buy a DALI. Can someone who owns and has broken in the Ikon 1 MK 2 elaborate on their experience and if they ever felt fatigued by the speakers? Did that go away after sufficient break-in time?
Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance to any who read and/or respond. I would really appreciate any information/advice you could offer. I have read some of this thread but not the majority. I will try and get through it over the next few days.
Edit: I forgot to ask. When comparing ~$1100 smallish bookshelf speakers, the Paradigm Studio 10 is way ahead of the Ikon 1 MK2 in terms of fit and finish (I like the way the Ikon looks but it is vinyl wrapper and the cabinet is not curved). Does Paradigm allocate more funds to the finish as a form of marketing and sacrifice sound? Is one company lining their pockets more than the other? I realize this isn't exactly a fair comparison because the Ikon is only $1100 in the US. But if anyone has thoughts on which companies put the most into sound versus marketing vs ...., I would be interested to hear.