Thanks for the pre/pro and amp discussions; it's certainly helpful.Audition # 1
So I got to spend some time with a couple of speakers this weekend (finally).
Monitor Audio RS6
The first ones I sat down with were the Monitor Audio RS8 and 6's. I figured I would start cheap and work my way up. This way if I find something I fall in love with, it won't break the bank and I can stop there.
Without getting into a ridiculously long post (again), I preferred the RS6 to the RS8. If I had to pin down a reason, it would due to the difference in bass. The RS8 has an extra bass driver, but it muddies up the mids and gives the tower more of a bloated sound. The lower extension might be great with movies, but it didn't excel with music. As for the RS6, the bass was also a tad boomy, but no where near the RS8. There was more detail in the mids than there was with the RS8's, allowing me to hear some subtle nuances that I couldn't with the RS8's. I also liked the extended highs and their ability to pick out all of the details without becoming harsh or fatiguing. The main negative I had with the MA's was that their soundstage wasn't as tall and wide as I would have liked. When I stood up the soundstage immediately collapsed thus throwing off the imaging and the my ability to pinpoint specific instruments.
The MA RS6's are a fine fine speaker for under $1000, and at this point, I felt they may very well be the best speaker I've heard for the price...well, until my next audition.
After spending some time with the MA's, I moved over to the Vandersteen 1C's. While I have had plenty of listening time with these speakers, it had been a while and I felt it wold be a fair comparison to the RS6's considering the price was almost the same for the pair. The first thing I noticed was a more smooth, yet equally extended high frequnecy. The details were all still there, perhaps even more prominent, but there was added air and sparkle to the treble. In a word, it was saweeeet.
I new I could listen to these speakers for hours (naturally) without worrying about ear fatigue or ringing. The midrange, in comparison to that of the RS6's, sounded less compressed and/or recessed. It was just "there" floating in space - very cool. As for the bass, it now made me change my opinion of the bass of the RS6's, which I now felt was a little more bloated than I initially thought. The 1C's bass was definitely leaner and tighter, but more musical. I assume that the Q tuning of the woofers on the 1C's was lower in order to produce a more musical tightness.
I found two cons with the Vandies: Having owned the 2CE's for just over a year now, I immediately missed the ability of the 1C's to extend lower in the bass department. If I had never heard the 2CE's, the 1C's wouldn't have been quite as lacking in this area, but I still would have been lusting after that extra extension. For some this will not be an issue because you will be using a sub, but for two channel a little extra kick in the chest would be nice. Second: the Vandersteen's seemed a tad softer at the same listening levels of the pre-amp, thus telling me they may not be as dynamic as the MA's. It wasn't a huge difference, but its something to remember when choosing the proper amplifier for this speaker.
Finally, the Vandersteen's were not as forgiving as the MA's with poor recordings. This may be considered a pro or a con depending on the listener. For me, it's was a pro because it means while listening to a good
recording I won't be missing anything and it will be that much better. If you listen to a great deal of rock or heavy metal, the MA's may win by a nose.
In the end, my time was too short this weekend and it left me craving to have another day off dedicated to speaker auditioning. I had a blast and came away still preferring the Vandersteen sound in the $1000 or less price class (for the fronts). For HT I would recommend a subwoofer for both speakers, and probably the same for music (though a sealed sub with a lower Q would be best for music IMO). If I had to pick an overall winner, it's the Vandersteen 1C by a hair.
More to come when my journey continues this weekend...I can't wait!