Hi guys --
I'm now on the hunt for my first pair of really good FRs, having just moved back to LA form Manhattan. I've been listening to B&W PM1s for the last few years powered by a Denon 3312, but with more space and no shared walls, I'm ready to do a serious upgrade. Looks like this thread has been the foundation for many similar searches, so hopefully I'll be able to find my own path a little easier.
I'm looking at new and Agon, and will budget up to 10K for the FRs. I'll use the system for home theater as well, but will make my decisions based on 2-channel. I'm not yet sure what I'll use to power the system, but will be upgrading there too (possibly higher-end AVR with a separate 2-channel amp?).
I managed to make my way over to the Venetian at CES (I was there for business, but grabbed a few hours for myself), and listened to some really stellar speakers and some amazing cans. I didn't have much time and it was a bit of a zoo, so I didn't take any notes, so these are general impressions.
As preamble, I've always loved the B&W sound, and I do love my PM1s. I think of them as clean and tight, but with a little warmth.
My first stop was Vandersteen, and the Model Sevens were singing (pic attached). I was practically giddy as I entered the room, and loved what I heard. They were beautifully transparent, with excellent imaging and soundstage. For me at least, I was a little disappointed too -- they didn't really grab me given the price tag. At first I thought it was the room and the environment (lots of people, I was a little in a hurry), but my next stops made me think these just don't have the warmth and texture that I'm seeking. At the time, they were playing Fleetwood Mac's Second Hand News. All the accuracy and depth, but missing something. They were powering with Audio Research and an analog source (I'll come back to that later).
Next stop was Sonus faber, where I listened to the Olympica IIs (pic). These speakers really grabbed my attention, and did it so effortlessly! Considering they're less than a fifth the cost, I now appreciate you can't make decisions on curves, graphs and specs. I think they were using McIntosh, with an analog source. They delivered a full, organic sound to my ears with exceptional imaging and soundstage, and all the warmth that I crave. I had to move on, but knew that I'd be very happy with these. As I looked back at the photo I took, I could see they were running a sub. Wouldn't need it with the IIIs for music only I don't think, even though I don't think they qualify as true FR at 35Hz-30KHz.
And then I stopped by Canton. I poked around, but there was a group of folks having a meeting in the listening room. I could hear them pretty from the other side of the room and liked what I heard, and was curious about the price, and was going to grab a brochure and move on. She walked through the meeting to check the price on the speaker for me -- $10K. It seemed like enough of an interruption, so I tried to leave. She convinced me to stay ("You're here, you should sit down and listen to them!"). So she asked the five guys sitting around the living room if they'd move into the next room. I sat down, turned up the volume, and found a new favorite. The Reference 5.2DC delivered a much larger and dynamic soundstage, with seemingly the same warmth and expression. And here they were running without a sub. Pretty sure they were powering with Arcam here with a digital source.
Next up, Thiel. Sit down and not really impressed off the bat. I can't remember what was playing, but it really didn't sound great compared to where I'd been. Then he switched over to Norah Jones (I know - she makes most speakers sound great) and my opinion changed. Airy, bright but not overly so (they had sounded a but muddy with the prior track), accurate, warm, with good soundstage and imaging. Not as good as the Cantons or Sonus faber, but still really good. And then I learned that these speakers, the new TT1s, are about half the price at an MSRP of $5800. They also don't qualify as full-range, with a frequency response of 39Hz - 30KHz.
Thiel was using a digital source powered by Classe. Which brings me to a bit of a digression, but I'll bring it back around at the end. I also listened to Beyer T-1s, Sennheiser HD-800s and Audeze LCD-3s (and the new EL-8s). Audeze had a beautiful turntable made by the folks at Tri-Art Audio in Canada. They all sounded really good, but none blew my socks off like the Sennheiser Orpheus setup I got to hear at their booth. That was truly a delight. During my speaker wanderings, I passed by the Chord Audio booth and stopped to listen to the new Hugo TT paired with the Audeze LCD-3s. That setup, connected just to my own iPhone, sounded so much better than those cans at the Audeze booth with an analog source. So to get to the point for this forum, it's now clear to me how much of a difference the components between the source and the speakers can really make.
I wish I'd had the time to go back through and give another listen, brought my own test tracks (I'm building a list), and made notes. But I think I've at least made a solid start.
All of them were powered with gear out of my range, but I do plan to invest in a good stereo amp on top of an AVR without breaking the bank. I'm looking at Rotel, Cambridge, Arcam, Marantz, and possibly the Peachtree Grand X-1 on the stereo side, and Cambridge, Arcam and Pioneer on the AVR side. I'm skeptical that the AVR would be as good for stereo, but will listen before I just go out and buy two components. And I really really want that Chord Hugo TT!
Thanks for any advice, and hope to keep this thread going!
Last edited by mjangus; 01-12-2015 at 12:46 AM.
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