4 Months of Auditioning Results - Ascend, Dyn, Paradigm, SVS - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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This is long over due. I was mainly holding back to get as much time with each speaker as possible, because my opinion did change over time with more exposure to each speaker. I also just received the Ascend 170SE, and wanted to get them into the mix. There is probably nothing new here, but since I promised, here it is:

Disclaimer:
This review is by me for me. I am not a professional reviewer. I don’t come into this with a golden ear and the most experience listening to speakers. I may have made some mistakes along the way, and my gear is far from perfect. But, I did my best to get the most out of each speaker in my room with the gear that I have, to find the speaker that I liked the best and the one I felt gave me the best value. I have found that I tend to like a more forward speaker, and place a place a premium on being able to maintain a very full sound at high volume levels. My tastes and priorities may differ from yours, which will likely affect the speakers we each choose. If you want to disagree with me, please get both of the speakers in question, listen to them both, and then let’s discuss what we hear. If you want to call be bias or whatever, piss off and get your own thread.

Intro:
I was trying to answer two basic questions:
1.) What $500 - $800 speaker do I like best?
2.) How much improvement is there in an $800 speaker over a $200 speaker, and is it worth it to me? Will I notice the difference?

To answer these questions, I began by visiting numerous audio stores in my local area and listening to several brands, including: B&W, Focal, Klipsch, M&K, Paradigm, Monitor Audio, PSB, System Audio, Quad, and DynAudio. While in-store listening was helpful, it was often in environments that were less than optimal and resulted in a poor experience (my experiences can be followed in a separate AVS thread). Luckily, the better audio dealers encourage in-home listening. A local dealer near me allows for 1 week in-home demo, and I took him up on it. Another dealer near me offers 3-day weekend in-home demoing. A few didn’t offer in-home demoing, so I went somewhere else. Additionally, I ordered a couple of speakers from Internet direct manufactures. All discussion here is about what I heard, while listening in my own room, with my gear, with my ears.

I mainly focus on 2-channel music. I believe that if a speaker can perform well with music, it will perform well in a home theater environment. This was also done, because I can’t afford to bring home several full 5.1 systems at one time. To evaluate each speaker, I listened to several full CDs and kept notes of any noteworthy impressions. After forming some opinions of each speakers, I then A/Bed them keying in on the areas previously identified.

The Setup:
Receiver: Pioneer 1015TX, typically crossed over at 80hz
DVD/CD: Toshiba SD4109X
Sub: MB Quatz D1200si or Dual DIY 15†Sealed Subs

The room is approximately 18’x18’ with a 5’x12’ entry way, and one 3’ stairway opening in the rear. Seating is approximately 10’ from the front wall. Speakers are spaced 10’ apart to maintain a 60 degree listing triangle. Acoustically, the room is fairly well balanced, with two fabric sofas, two leather recliners, and two DIY bass traps in the front corners and three DIY wide band absorbers on the front wall. Not perfect, but pretty good.

Music:
Cold Play: Rush of Blood to the Head
Dave Mathews: Crash
Norah Jones: Come Away With Me
Jars of Clay: Jars of Clay
Live: Distance to Here
Ray Charles: Ray Soundtrack
U2: All of them 
And a few others

The Contenders:

Paradigm Atoms , MSRP $219
These have been my faithful rear speakers for the past six years. Prior to this adventure, I used Paradigm Titans in front. I had wished to also include these in the review, but unfortunately, I sold these just prior to this review. I’ve always felt like these have been a great entry level speaker, with a lot of bang for the buck. Professional reviewers pretty much say the same thing – one of the best value speakers you can buy.

SVS SBS-01, MSRP $220
These speakers are comparable in price to the Paradigm Atoms that I am replacing. It probably isn’t a fair comparison to compare them to the other speakers that I have here. But, they are getting great reviews in the forums and from websites sites such as Audioholics and Secretes of Home Theater and High Fidelity. It isn’t uncommon to see comments that these speakers compete with speakers costing much more. Yes, these were more of a curiosity contender than a real contender. There is probably some bias in my reports; though not against SVS, but against small sealed bookshelf speakers. I wanted to get a pair of these to satisfy my own beliefs concerning what a $220 speaker could deliver. These are really included here more to see for myself and for my wife what upgrading from one of the current better $200 bookshelf speakers to a $600 - $800 bookshelf gains.

Ascend 170SE, MSRP $349
-Spoiler Warning -
These speakers were brought late to the party. They were purchased after I had made the decision to keep the Ascend 340SE. With SVS’s great 45-day in home trial, I still had the SVS SB-01 for a few days and was able to make some comparisons. I also still had the Atoms to compare to.

Ascend 340SE, MSRP $568
These were purchased for demo based on the very positive reviews that I kept reading at AVS, especially Steve Callas’s great thread. A big positive that the Ascend 340SE had going for it was the 5 speaker package price. I could get the 340SE, 340SECenter, and the 170SE for under $1200. When shopping at local stores, I found that many of the $800 speakers I liked were the cheapest speaker that manufacture made, so a 5 channel setup would be much more expensive. This was a big deal to me.

Paradigm Studio 20, MSRP $850
I've had Paradigm Atoms and Titans for the last 6 years, and always enjoyed the Paradigm sound. I’ve been in to see my local Paradigm dealer several times off and on for many years, and really have gained a lot by talking to him and listening to the different speakers he deals. Originally, I though I would be taking home Paradigm Monitor 5s, but the Studio 20s if used with Mini-Monitor rears would squeeze into my target budget. Based on the many great reviews of the Studio 20s, I really wanted to hear them. Unfortunately, my dealer only had Studio 40s on hand. Understanding that there will be some differences between the 20s and 40s, I took the 40s home for a demo.

DynAudio Audience 42, MSRP ~$750
While auditioning at DynAudio and System Audio (another Danish manufacturer) were the only speakers that made me say “WOW!†Two pairs of these and a center would probably be exceeding my original budget, but if they could keep me saying “WOW†over the long term and when A/Bed versus other speakers, it would be worth it.

Chris's DIY MTM, Material Costs ~$250
Final candidate, and not really a candidate is a DIY MTM design. It is a similar design to the Ascend 340, built by Chris DAlessio, but the enclosure is about twice as deep. You can read about it his design here: http://www.eldamar.net/audio/rs150mtm/ . Chris is an experienced DIY speaker builder who helped me out when I was building my subs. I didn’t really trust my own opinions regarding all of these speakers, so I invited Chris over for a day to educate me and for a day of listening. I think we spent about 4 hours listening to the different speakers. You can read his thoughts over at Hometheatertalk.com: http://hometheatertalk.com/httalk/vi...7d0d6b5259e982


Okay, so how did they compare? I’m going to break this into two parts based on price. Paradigm Atom v. SVS SB-01 v. Ascend 170SE, and then Paradigm Studio 40 v. Ascend 340SE v. DynAudio 42.

The Paradigm Atoms have a nice, very full, rich sound to them. They are a more forward speaker, with music seaming to come out and into the room. The soundstage width was good and good bit wider than the speakers. Imaging was good; vocals and instruments could be separated and appeared to come from a defined spot. The have decent bass for their size; drums and bass guitar sound natural. Of course they would benefit from having a sub. The Paradigm Titans were even better in this regard. I used them in full range mode for 6 years without being disappointed (my old Denon receiver directed on LFE to the sub). Pianos sounded very natural. Guitar strumming was tight. However, vocals weren’t as clear and accurate. I head several instances of sibilance. They could get loud enough to fill the room, but sounded thin and harsh at that volume level.

The SVS SBS-01 are much better speaker than I expected for the price and for SVS’s first attempt at building a speaker. There is a lot to like about these little speakers. They are a very crisp, clear speaker. The clarity and crispness of vocals really was impressive. They are a laid back speaker, with music being presented on a plane through the two speakers rather than coming out into the room. The width of the soundstage was basically confined to the width of the speakers. Imaging also was a minor short coming. I found at times vocals to move around within a song. To get the most pinpoint imaging, I found that I had to significantly toe them in. However, with the heavy toe in, I found them to be what I considered bright, but I now believe is in the upper midrange. High female vocals and piano notes seamed to have a ring to them that I found painful after extended amounts of listening. Repositioning the speakers helped, but hurt the imaging. Maybe it is my room, but I didn’t hear this with any other speaker. I found the bass and midrange to be lacking. I’m not sure if it was missing or due to a lack of clarity. Drums and bass guitar seamed removed at times. These speakers seemed to perform better with a 100hz crossover than the 80hz recommended by SVS.

The Ascend 170SE sounded great. They were a very crisp, detailed speaker. Bass and midrange were good. I found them to be a very neutral, accurate sounding speaker. They are a laid back speaker, with the sound be presented mostly in a plane between the speakers. Pulling the speakers out into the room gave the presentation more depth, but it still remained in line with the speakers or behind. Soundstage width was acceptable, extending slight beyond each speaker. I honestly couldn’t find much wrong with them. The do start to sound thin when played at loud volumes, as all small bookshelves would.


Head-to-Head, Atoms/SB-01/170SE

The Atoms have more bass and a fuller sound than the SVS. Drums, other than the kick drum, and bass guitar just don’t come through clear and punchy on the SVS, while they are decent to good on the Atoms. However, I wouldn’t call the Atom’s bass “punchyâ€. I was concerned that I might be confusing sub versus speakers, but I got right up to the sub and listened to what it was playing and same for the speaker. Having multiple speakers to compare also really allowed me to zero in on it being the speakers. I heard this repeatedly while listening to Jars of Clay, Dave Mathews, and Cold Play. This lack of good bass and midrange sometimes gave the SVS a flat, lacking impact, lifeless sound. Usually I would really like the SVS SB-01 at the beginning of songs when it was slow with just vocals, but when the song picked up I tended to be disappointed. DMB “Two Stepâ€, “Crash†and also Cold Play “God put a smile on your face.†are example of this. The Atoms didn’t seem to exhibit this same flatness.

I really liked the forward sound of the Atoms when compared to the other SVS SB-01 and the Ascend 170SE speakers. The Atoms seemed to envelope the listener more, and present a more lively sound. However, the SVS have a lot more clarity in the upper regions, so much so, that it really smacks you in the face and it is hard to hear any of the other characteristics of the SB-01. I was constantly impressed by vocals and instruments such as cymbals. Listening to Jars of Clay, while the SVS exhibited problems with the midrange and bass, they really excelled with the higher tune guitars and violins. However on this same album, the Atoms sounded really poor. With the Atoms, the vocals sounded like the male vocalist wasn’t even trying, maybe mumbling, and I was listening on the very low end speakers. Listening to U2 Zooropa, the vocals once again stand out and are crisp and clear on the SVS SB-01, while on the Atoms they don’t seem to separate as much and aren’t as detailed.

The Ascend 170SE really had some of the better characteristics of both the Paradigm Atom and SVS SB-01. The vocals and upper range on the Ascend 170SE and the SVS is very similar sounding. With simple instrumental pieces, like just an acoustical guitar, I had a hard time telling the difference between the Ascend 170SE and the SVS SB-01. However, the Ascend 170SE didn’t seem to suffer the issues with poor midrange and bass. I tended to like the Ascends through-out the whole range, where when comparing the SB-01 to the Atoms, I preferred the SVS SB-01 upper range and the Atom mid and lower range.

One final thing that needs to be discussed is sensitivity, size and output capacity. The sensitivities for the Atom, SB-01, and 170SE are 86, 85, and 89, respectively. This was very obvious when switching from one speaker to the next. The Atom and the SB-01 were very similar; I really didn’t have to adjust the volume level when switching between these two. But switching to the Ascend 170, the sensitivity became very obvious. I would have to turn down my receiver 5 to 6 db and readjust the sub level. This made switching a slow process.

The Ascend 170SE was the biggest speaker of the bunch. It is about the same height and depth as the SVS SB-01, but is about 2 inches wider. The Paradigm Atom is the smallest of the bunch. (The Paradigm Titan would have been the largest of the bunch had it been included.) The 170SE and Atom are both ported designs, while the SB-01 is a sealed design. I think the Ascend really used its size advantage and port to bury the other two in terms of output capacity. I was able to turn them up much louder before they began to sound thin and harsh vocals dominated. In that respect, the Atoms also had a slight edge over the SB-01. (Note, the Ascend has a larger midrange driver also.) At “party†listening levels, all three of these began to sound harsh, but the Ascends were still the best. At “spirited†listening levels, I couldn’t detect a big change in the sound of the Ascends, the Atoms were just starting to sound distorted but not harsh, while SB-01 were harsh and distorted. At good listening levels, all three performed well.

So which is the winner of these three? The Ascend 170SE is about $120 more expensive than the SVS SB-01 and the Atom, and it is obvious. The Ascend for its price does very little wrong. I wish it had a more forward sound and a bigger soundstage, but that can be overlooked for the price/value they deliver. The choice between the SVS SB-01 and the Paradigm Atom is a lot more difficult. I think it depends on what your priorities are.

My wife listened with me last night, and I posed this question to her. She chooses the Atoms. In many ways, I agree with her. We both like the more forward, lively sound they present. Of the three, they had the widest soundstage, and at the same volume level filled the room the most. They also had good imaging, that if missing can be distracting. After a while of listening to the Atoms, I tended to not notice the lack of clarity and the poor vocals and just really enjoy the music. This is especially true when listening at “spirited†levels.

The SVS SB-01 are probably a much better speaker when used in a 5.1 or 7.1 home theater setup as opposed to 2 channel music. It would be my guess that a 5.1 source material would make all the imaging problems disappear. It really depended on the song as to whether the SB-01 or the Atom would be my choice. I believe that movies tend to emphasize dialog, vocals, and effects which are either in the upper range or subwoofer range, and if I were building a HT only system I would definitely choose the SB-01 over the Atoms.


Studio 40/Ascend 340SE/DynAudio

The Ascend 340SE were really likeable. Many of the same things I said about the Ascend 170SE apply to the Ascend 340SE. They seem to be a very well balanced, neutral speaker. I found vocals were clear, crisp and detailed. The bass was good and had just a bit of punch to it. They are a laid back speaker, with the sound be presented mostly in a plane between the speakers. Imaging is real good. Soundstage width was acceptable, extending slight beyond each speaker. It has been said that the Ascends don’t have a HUGE soundstage. And I would somewhat agree with this. It isn’t narrow and confined between the speakers, but it isn’t what I would consider HUGE. Chris’s MTM’s had a wider stage by comparison. I think the soundstage width maybe more material dependant than other speakers. The crowd applause at the end of Hotel California on the Eagle’s live CD was very big and very life like. I had the volume kind of low, and it really took me by surprise. They could be a little fuller sounding and do start to sound thin when played at “spirited†volumes. I also wish that they had a more forward, engaging sound.

The Paradigm Studio 40s were really disappointing. Imaging was good. They are a very forward, with the music being presented well out into the middle of the room. The soundstage was nice and wide. The combination of a wide soundstage and forwardness made them a very engaging speaker. Many people describe the Paradigms as “bright†or “harshâ€. I found them to be brighter, but not to the point that it detracted for me. The bass and midrange was the areas I found the Studio 40s to be most disappointing. Because of its three-way design and big woofer, I expected it to have good bass. But there was nothing. It was just missing. The midrange didn’t seem all that detailed

The Dyn Audio Audience 42s make me go “WOW!†These speakers excited me. There was something about their sound that I can’t quite describe. The Audience had the most depth to the soundstage. I didn’t find them to have a forward or a laid back sound, but rather they made full use of the depth. The imaging and width was also good. Vocals were clear and crisp, but very smooth. They had a surprising amount of very punchy bass. In full range mode, kick drums were shockingly good, in comparison. But these speakers were a big contradiction. I think they are severely limited by their small size. The seemed to sound good at both ends, but lack detail in the middle. It always sounded like there was a lot of effort required to produce the sounds. And oddly, they sounded better the louder they got.

Chris’s MTM were shockingly good. It probably shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise, but this was the first DIY speaker that I’ve heard, and they are relatively inexpensive to build. They were very crisp, clear and detailed. The bass and midrange were also good. Overall, I would consider them a very neutral speaker. Imaging was real good, and the soundstage width extended well beyond the edges of the speakers. I wouldn’t consider them a forward speaker, but they weren’t laid back either. The continued to sound good as volume levels were increased. That was probably the most impressive characteristic of Chris’s design was the very full sound.


Head-to-Head, Studio40/Ascend 340SE/Audience 42/DIY MTM
It is a little bit harder to do a head-to-head comparison. These speakers are so different from each other. That was part of the reasons I selected each of them. I wanted clearly see some extreme differences. Nevertheless, here we go:

The Paradigms Studio 20s are a very engaging speaker, that I enjoyed turning way up, leaning back in my chair and singing along. They covered up my awful voice really well. But, any amount of studying of the music would lead me to be very disappointed with the sound. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In comparison to the Ascends, the midrange was so muddy, and the bass lacking. The Ascend 340SE had more punch to the kick drums than the Studio 40s. There wasn’t a single song that I listened to that I didn’t remark about how much clearer and crisper the Ascends were than the Studio 40s. In that regards, if you were only looking at the upper range and clearness, one might be lead to believe that even the SVS SB-01 is a better speaker than the Studio 40 (don’t miss understand, I would still take the Studio 40 over the SVS SB-01.) The only time that the Studio 40s sounded better, was on some of the Ray Charles recordings which are 40 years old and have a scratchy sound to them. The Studio 40s hid the scratchy sound.

The above can shouldn’t be misinterpreted to mean that Paradigm Studio 40s are a bad speaker, that can’t be recommended. Usually, the first thing in my notes about the Studios was, “sounded good.†As I said before, they are very engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed singing along with them. It is just the Ascends were a more accurate speaker, and listening side by side really revealed this. Like the SVS, they probably really excel in an HT environment.

The Dyn Audio Audience 42s were a mesmerizing speaker. That is the best way I can put it. Switching back and forth between the Dyn 42s and the Ascend 340SE made me want to run out and buy the much more expensive Dyn speakers. I could clearly hear the lack of midrange and the constrained sound in the Dyn, but it was doing tricks with the soundstage that was really appealing. There was also a little more smoothness to the vocals with the Dyns than the Ascend 340SE. But, I don’t think that I could live with the DynAudio 42. There was just too much missing in the midrange. Also, sometimes it felt like I had the receiver in a DSP mode to create effects, which hid the real sound of the recording. This also made them slightly fatiguing, because after a while it just didn’t sound real.

My wife was also mesmerized by the DynAudio Audience 42. She was about ready to okay the purchase of the DynAudio Focus 220, until she heard the price. I’m not saying that the Focus 220 is the most accurate, perfect speaker; just I think it is one that is the most appealing to my tastes.

Overall, while I’ve gushed over the Dyn’s, I think I would still choose the Studio 40s. Like the Atoms, I think I would get used to their sound after a while, and really enjoy them. With the Dyn’s, I think I would be mesmerized for a while, but then quickly get fatigued by them.

The Ascend 340SE were sort of right in the middle of the Studio 40s and DynAudio 42. They had most of the clear and crispness of the Dyn, as well as most of the punchy bass. But they were a lot more accurate and true sounding than the Dyn’s. I’ve been listening to them a lot lately, and have yet to get tired of listen to them. The comments I wrote down while listening to the Ascends were almost exactly the same, song after song: “Clearer, more accurate, Guitar more prominent, Everything sounds more balanced†The only negative complaint I wrote down was that on Ray Charles, “Hit the Road Jack†that it sounded like he was yelling at me, while on the Studio 40s and Dyn 42s, it was smoother.

Overall, my only complaint with the Ascend 340SE is that at “spirited†listening levels, they are slightly thin sounding, and that they can’t be played at “party†levels without starting to really sound thin, and a little bit of distortion. Some of this could be the room, but Chris’s DIY MTM didn’t suffer from this, nor did the Studio 40s. I’m wondering if some of this is what led Steve Callas to purchase the Boston Acoustic VR3. I considered auditioning these also, but couldn’t find a dealer to let me take them home free to demo, I wasn’t really happy with the matching Boston rears and center, and the five channel package price would have been almost double the Ascend price.

As far as Chris's MTMs, they had a wider soundstage, more depth, and were fuller sounding than the Ascends. To me, they sounded very similar to the Ascend 340SE at moderate volumes, especially on simple pieces with like a single violin or acoustical guitar. But, on rock when it started to get turned up, the Ascends started to sound thin and 2d, while Chris's were full and rich, and slightly more forward. His were the clear winner, but it wasn’t by much. It would be interesting if Ascend would build a floor-standing model. I think it would address the minor issue I had with the 340SE, and probably make me seriously consider upgrading.

My skills aren’t up for building DIY speakers at the moment, so I decided to keep the Ascends 340SEs and purchase the matching center channel and 170SE for the rear. But, I will be taking on a inexpensive DIY speaker project this summer, and maybe some day will try my hand at some expensive DIY speakers to replace the 340SEs.

Addition, both the Dyn Audio 42 and Paradigm Studio 40s in were in my opinion better speakers than the SVS SB-01. Maybe not a better value for the dollar, but a better speaker. This shouldn’t be surprising considering the cost difference. Though, I think it will be really interesting when SVS releases their larger speakers in the coming year.


Pictures coming soon.

-Ryan

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post #2 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 02:59 PM
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K, great review and should be a great help to all. Thanks, Dennis

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post #3 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:11 PM
 
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Great read ---k---

You have me scratching my head again about what speakers I want to get... Right now I'm back to the Ascend v. SVS debate. My interest is limited to HT as I have a nice 2.0 setup already. Having never heard either (I'll fix this in time) I was leaning towards the SVS because they seem to get great reviews for HT duty and they are cheaper than the Ascend setup. My hesitation with the SVS setup is that damn buyer's remorse... I'm afraid if I don't spend a little more $$ now for the Ascends I'll regret it later. I think all my questions will be answered with an in home audition.

I wish someone would do this type of review with the Atoms, SBS, and 170's in a HT setup...
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post #4 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:12 PM
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What a great write up! That is what I call due diligence.

Thanks!
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post #5 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:28 PM
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That was a great review. Did you ever think about throwing an Axiom setup in the mix?

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post #6 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:31 PM
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Very admirable job. Glad you chose speakers you could live with for a while.

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post #7 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, I did consider the Axioms. I even had a pair of M22ti in my shopping basket, and was about to hit check out. For some reason, I didn't pull the trigger. I also thought about having John, aka ailment, send me a pair of NHTs. With the holidays and trying to finish my DIY subs, it was getting a little crazy.

I'm more curious now than ever about the way differnt speakers sound. I may still order a pair of Axioms. It will be well worth the shipping costs to play with another pair of speakers for a month. And, I'm definitely thinking about ordering a pair of Asperion speaker. Since they pay all the shipping, it is a no brainer. I just am going to enjoy the Ascends for a while before diving into this again.

-Ryan

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post #8 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:53 PM
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Fantastic review K. As a new enthusiast working on my first HT setup I sincerely thank you for taking the time to do a write-up like that. Those speakers are on many peoples short list and your opinions on them are, to me, invaluable. I would love to hear your review on the Axioms, should you get them, as they are my number one choice right now.

Great work!
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post #9 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:53 PM
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Thumbs up! ;)
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post #10 of 135 Old 02-21-2006, 03:55 PM
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great, great work. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. Sounds like you did your due diligence and found a speaker you can be happy with. Enjoy them and thanks you. Keep us up to date as to how the system sounds as a whole once it all arrives and gets set up. I would be curious to see how you like them. I have heard the Ascends and the Dyn Audience 42's at a friend's house and had very similar reactions. I was in awe of the dyn's when I first heard them at a shop. However, once I heard them in a home I still really liked them, but they lost their wow factor compared to the ascend. I enjoyed them but the more I listened the more I found myself leaning towards the ascends. Now if money were the same--It would be real tough--probably get the dyn's--prettier. I have heard a complete set of the audieces run on adcom equipment anchored my a martin logan decent (or depth--can't remeber) and thought I was going to absolutely love it--it just wasn't the case. I still don't know why. I have heard that from many people after that that the Dyn's are great in 2 channel but loose some magic somehow in multi channel. I don't understand how or why or if that is just hooey, but I did love them in stereo (at first) and was not at all impressed in multi channel. Anyway--great comparison and thanks again.

Above all, enjoy the sound.
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post #11 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 07:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShagnWagon
Great read ---k---

You have me scratching my head again about what speakers I want to get... Right now I'm back to the Ascend v. SVS debate. My interest is limited to HT as I have a nice 2.0 setup already. Having never heard either (I'll fix this in time) I was leaning towards the SVS because they seem to get great reviews for HT duty and they are cheaper than the Ascend setup. My hesitation with the SVS setup is that damn buyer's remorse... I'm afraid if I don't spend a little more $$ now for the Ascends I'll regret it later. I think all my questions will be answered with an in home audition.

I wish someone would do this type of review with the Atoms, SBS, and 170's in a HT setup...
I did watch War of the Worlds with the SVS SB-01 hooked up as my mains, with a Paradigm CC-170 center and the Atoms as rears. I watched the movie at around -14 on my receiver that was calibrated to 85db being 0. This is usually what I tell my wife is "Movie Theater Volume".

The SVS did a good job. The glass breaking when the car gets thrown sounded very real, and was something that really left an impression on me. Like I said, I was able to turn them up pretty loud, and for the most part didn't notice them struggling. It was a while ago so I can't name chapter and scene, but there were a few areas where I felt that they couldn't keep up my subs. I think what I was hearing was the speakers starting to sound thin because of the volume level, but the sub still going strong. I have quite a bit of sub though, which probably won't be the case for most.

I obviously feel that the more expensive Ascends 170SE and 340SE would do better than the SVS SB-01 in both music and HT performance. But, if you are enjoying the movie and not critically listening to the speakers, you may not be able to tell much differance. This is especially true if you have a small room, or don't have the volume very high, or the movie tends to have only upper-range sound effects and low subwoofer sound effects and not much emphisis on the midrange.

It is really hard to describe with words the differance. I'm really strugling here not to just bash the smaller speaker, because they don't deserve to be bashed hard. For their size and price they are good. But, it seems like we are all forgetting: There is no replacement for displacement! We all bash a certain company that rhymes with blows, because their speakers are so small that they don't sound good. But we are forgetting that physics that keeps those small cubes from sounding good, is the same physics that allows bigger speakers to potentially sound better than smaller speakers.

If you are still struggling between the SB-01 and the 170SE, order both. You'll learn more in the 30 day auditioning about speakers and your tastes than you ever will reading this crap.

-Ryan

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post #12 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 07:46 AM
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Ryan:
Great piece of work here. I feel a kinship with you because we were both working on our subs at the same time and would cross post each other. I also chose to purchase Ascend 340SE and 170SE. I have 2 questions.

1) What do you think the Ascends would do if you fed them more power, such as 200 to 400 watts? Would they sound better at louder volumes? You mentioned that they got thin at louder volumes. I am in the process of putting together a 2 channel system with about 400 watts to test my 340's and see what happens. I am just curious.

2) Why not build the MTM's that Chris brought over. It would seem easy to copy them with no design effort at all! I know it would take some time but you could use the 170's in the meantime. I guess i want to know "Did the DIY speakers really sound that much better than the Ascends?". As you know, DIY is hard to demo. You were lucky. (If only Jon Marsh lived down the street).

Anyway, I feel the Ascend 340SE's will be great at louder volume if you give them more watts to use. You might be hearing your amp run out of steam......

Chuck
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post #13 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ---k---
There is no replacement for displacement!

Yeah baby! A fellow gear head! 403 CI of turbo diesel is what I am talking about!


We all bash a certain company that rhymes with blows, because their speakers are so small that they don't sound good. But we are forgetting that physics that keeps those small cubes from sounding good, is the same physics that allows bigger speakers to potentially sound better than smaller speakers.

Funny thing about Bose. I have heard them exactly twice. Two differerent homes. They were both in large open rooms with high ceilings.The speakers painstakenly placed up high on the walls by there ultra proud owners.

Believe it or not, they did not sound half bad. Concidering the size and simplicity. Its a different sound. It uses the enitre room and uses alot of relections. But it is really a good sound when you are doing other things.

Regardless of what I thought the owners were very very happy and proud. Thats reallity for you.
..

Let me guess, your profound advice is " Go listen for your self."
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post #14 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 08:58 AM
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Great write-up K, thanks. I really enjoyed reading it.
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post #15 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 09:26 AM
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good detailed review. Those who want speakers for music and looking at various bookshelf speakers under 1 k should really enjoy this.

As an owner of the SBS system, I do find 2 channel to be its weak point but when in multi channel they do a great job. I think anyone who would buy these for mainly 2 channel is silly because it appears pretty easy to me it was more designed for multi channel playback than for critical 2 channel music playback.

I do disagree with the soundstage only being as wide as the speaker placement comment. It goes past the speakers in my room.

I also disagree about the midrange lacking but the definition of midrange is diff from person to person.

ROB
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post #16 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 10:02 AM
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Excellent work. I'll take a write up like that anytime over a magazine review. I get the impression you still aren't completely satisfied though......is this just the beginning? :)


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post #17 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chasw98
Ryan:
Great piece of work here. I feel a kinship with you because we were both working on our subs at the same time and would cross post each other. I also chose to purchase Ascend 340SE and 170SE. I have 2 questions.

1) What do you think the Ascends would do if you fed them more power, such as 200 to 400 watts? Would they sound better at louder volumes? You mentioned that they got thin at louder volumes. I am in the process of putting together a 2 channel system with about 400 watts to test my 340's and see what happens. I am just curious.
I'm not really an expert on amps to know, but I think all speaker sound better with better amps that provide more headroom. But, I don't think that a better/bigger amp would really drastically change the sound. IMHO, it wasn't my amp running out of steam. Maybe someday I will be able to test this. But personally, I would prefer to buy $1600 speakers rather than $600 speakers and a $1000 amp.

And, lets remember that my complaint about the Ascends sounding thin was a very minor complaint. I really don't want to be seeing threads like, "I was considering Ascends, but I hear they sound thin." IMHO, they sound thin when compared to a lot of the speakers in the same price range because those speakers are so heavy on bass, because that is what the some teanagers seam to like. And they sound thin when compared to better/much more expensive speakers, maybe because they are small?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chasw98
2) Why not build the MTM's that Chris brought over. It would seem easy to copy them with no design effort at all! I know it would take some time but you could use the 170's in the meantime. I guess i want to know "Did the DIY speakers really sound that much better than the Ascends?". As you know, DIY is hard to demo. You were lucky. (If only Jon Marsh lived down the street).

Anyway, I feel the Ascend 340SE's will be great at louder volume if you give them more watts to use. You might be hearing your amp run out of steam......

Chuck

Why not build speakers? Well, a couple of reasons:
1. I just finished the subs, and need to let the dust settle and get a few projects for the wife done first.
2. I go in phases of how much I like to listen to music and HT. Back in high school, I bought a tape like every week, and copied dozen mores. Had a big collection that I loved to listen in my Escort with my Jasen speakers. :) By college, CDs had really become mainstream, and I got rid of all my tapes. I just never got into buying CDs, due to cost and just lost my appeitite for music because I had just gotten rid of all my tapes, and found it hard to deal with not having an instantly big CD collection. After college, I purchased my Titan/Atom setup and enjoyed it, more though for HT. I would listen to music occasionally, especially with a friend of mine who was big into music. But I never got into buying CDs, and really listening. I'm just now getting into the next phase where I want to listen to music. I've bought probably 20 CDs in the last 2 months and have really really enjoyed listening, and learning. So the answer is that I'm still learning. I want to have a really good idea of what I like and want before I undertake a full DIY project.
3. I'm a real good rough carpetner, and a poor finish carpetner. I need to work on my woodworking skills a little more before I undertake a bigger project.



As far as did they really sound "that" much better. NO! It was obvious enough that with a little priming, my wife could tell the differance. But with a lot of simple peices, like just an acustical guitar, I couldn't tell a differance. Since Chris took his speakers home, I've gotten used to the sound of the Ascends and don't notice it unless I'm really listening specifically for it.

And yeah, I'm really lucky to have someone like Chris near me, so that I can listen to his DIY speakers. He tells me that the Nat P MTM or the Modula MTM are even better than his. I'm hoping that there is another DIY fair in Chicago next year. I will definitely be attending and checking it out.

-Ryan

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post #18 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 10:46 AM
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K,
I am so glad that I come across this great review. Thanks K for sharing!

I made a "good size" mistake a few months ago for buying a Lifestyle 38 from Bose, ya I over paid for what I got. So, if I could sale my Bose to get something else:

Similar size of Bose for a set of 5.1.
And looking into just spent abour 2K this time,

Please take a pick for me (no blaming game here). I use the system for 70% movie and the rest are for music and some Karaoke. The system will be in the Family room 14' W & 17 L, which is connected to the Kitchen
Reciever?
Speakers?

Thanks!
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post #19 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 10:54 AM
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Great review..

Have you ever heard Polk Lsi9's ?

These are the 2 speakers my brother is considering right now. The only problem is there is no dealer close to audition the Polk Lsi9 speakers. I've been told they are really good speakers that can play loud and clear but require a lot of watts..

Could you give me your impressions on the Lsi9's ?

Regards,
Jose
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post #20 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 11:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ---k---
But, I don't think that a better/bigger amp would really drastically change the sound.
Had always thought this until I had a chance at an audio get together to put my Ascends on a very nice front end. :) I now own an Audio Refinement Complete Alpha amp and CDP running my Ascends. :D You've picked up that the Ascends are revealing of bad recordings. With the neutral nature of the Ascends they won't color a better amp either. Borrow someone's and see what you think.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~ Henry David Thoreau
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post #21 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCallas
Excellent work. I'll take a write up like that anytime over a magazine review. I get the impression you still aren't completely satisfied though......is this just the beginning? :)
Steve, as you know there is always something better out there, if you are willing to spend the money or time on it. I'm pretty satisfied for now. The biggest thing to me right now, is that I would be willing to put the Ascend 340/170 combo up against any other $1200 5 speaker package. I don't think there is anything that can beat them in terms of accuracy.

I'm going to enjoy these for the next year or so. Like I said, I'm going to order a pair of the Aperions some day - it is free- , more just to be exposed to more speakers and to learn more about what I like. Maybe I'll order a pair of Axioms to play with.



When you have curiosity and desire, the adventure will never be complete....

-Ryan

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post #22 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Tiger,
I'm not familar with speakers that are similar size to the Bose, so I can't really recommend anything. I don't really want to start discussing Bose here.

-Ryan

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post #23 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 12:38 PM
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Hello K,

Bose, you don't have to say a thing about it,,,,,,, I am a newbie and have been reading so much about it after I bought it (great move huh). Read so much about it that I wanna take it down. I plan to spend about 2k for the 5.1 speaker set and reciever.

How about the smallest set that you know of w. great sound quality?? price?? reciever??

thx again K.

K
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post #24 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jose_L
Great review..

Have you ever heard Polk Lsi9's ?

These are the 2 speakers my brother is considering right now. The only problem is there is no dealer close to audition the Polk Lsi9 speakers. I've been told they are really good speakers that can play loud and clear but require a lot of watts..

Could you give me your impressions on the Lsi9's ?

Regards,
Jose
I did listen to the Polk Lsi7 and Lsi9 at Tweeter back in November or so. You can read about it in my thread, "So I went Shopping". I can't find the link right now, sorry.

But, a quick summary: They weren't really set up well. They had them on a shelf about 5' up in the air, over the floorstanding speakers. They were also pushed back pretty close to the wall, and it was a small room. So not at all optimum.

That said, they didn't really get me excited. The Dyn's, System Audio, Paradigms, M&Ks did. They sounded heavy on the midrange and bass. They didn't have that airy crispness to them. I'm trying to remember hard here, but I don't think the bass was puncy, with impact like the Dyn's. It was just there. I think a lot of this has to do with the setup. If not, I think it they have a sound that a lot of people would probably like, probably great for rock where accuracy isn't everything. The Polks will definitely play loud. They also seemed a little pricey from the local B&M, compared to the Ascends and even the Paradigm Studios. Somone who likes classical or jazz, or just wants real detailed and clear crisp speakers probably won't like them.

I wouldn't consider any speaker that you can't listen to. There are so many good ones out there, just move on to something that you can buy local or try an Internet brand that will let you ship them back. Don't worry about the shipping costs, it is worth it for the fun you will have. If you buy an ID speaker, you'll likely save enough that you can afford to ship a pair or two back.

-Ryan

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post #25 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 01:05 PM
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Ryan...looks like you had a great experienced and learned a lot. Thanks for sharing!

-curtis

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Like all things on the Internet, do your research, as forums have a good amount of misinformation.

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post #26 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 01:10 PM
 
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Great review. Wish you had compared some Athenas also.
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post #27 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 03:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
Great review. Wish you had compared some Athenas also.

Why?
They are seriosuly outclassed by most of the demo'd speakers here.

BOYCOTT BEST BUY IN WEST PATERSON, NJ !!!!
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post #28 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by PULLIAMM
Great review. Wish you had compared some Athenas also.
Yeah, me too. I think the Athena F2.2 vs. the 340SE would be an interesting comparision. They are about the same price. I'm guessing that the 340SE would be a more accurate speaker, but the Athena might be a worthy challanger, and might do a few things better.

Maybe next time. If someone local w/ the Athena F2 wants to PM, we'll figure something out.

-Ryan

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post #29 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 03:55 PM
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Very nice, particularly the SVS vs Ascend comparison. You deserve a break, so go enjoy your new goods now.
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post #30 of 135 Old 02-22-2006, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Why?
They are seriosuly outclassed by most of the demo'd speakers here.
Hey! Be nice.

I would really like to keep this civil. I know that you are a big Ascend fan, as am I now. If you've heard the Athena's, I don't think it would be wrong to politely state that you've listened to both and prefer the Ascends. But, that is not what you said.

-Ryan

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