Okay, I finally got a chance to get out for another listen. I went back to the same place as last time to specifically hear the Dali Icon 6, and whatever else they had in my price range, and to give the Hawks a second listen... I should add that last time everything was driven by some higher end NAD electronics at 150wpc, this time lower end, solid state NAD in a different room and a true 50wpc, some of the same music as before and some new... (remember these are just MY impressions and opinions)
I will run 'em down in the order I listened to them.Usher V-602
Started with a little jazz from Grant Green, and noticed right away that the cymbals had a very nice decay, acoustic bass was nice and full, but drum rim shots were sounding a little on the thin side. Next I moved into some Fela Kuti afro-beat that is a really clean recording and has exceptional dynamics. The V-602's sounded really good here, nice separation of instruments, clear clean highs. A slight upper-mid push, that I noticed slightly with the Grant Green, became even more apparent with the introduction of brass horn instruments. Next I tried some Beatle's Abbey Road (one of my all time favorites). The electric bass had nice punch and clarity with these speakers, though they went fairly deep they sounded a bit bright to my ears. Next was a little Eryka Bahdu, and the V-602's handled it well with a full punchy bass, and high end clarity, sounding good both high and low volume. Overall, I would say that for the money this is a fine speaker, with a slight accent on the upper-mids.Dali Icon 6
Starting where we left off with Eryka Bahdu the Dali's had a deeper bass response, crisp highs, and a nice well balanced sound. They have very nice imaging and excellent control. Rim shots were crisp, and very real sounding. Fela Kuti showed a very nice live sound, great separation, with almost crystalline highs. When the horns started playing they came across a little harsh. On to what has become the deal breaker for more than a few speakers I have auditioned, Fu Manchu. I should say that I only play the Fu Manchu on speakers that I actually like. The "California Crossing" CD is not a spectacular recording, but is dense with crunchy guitars, thick meaty bass, and hard driving drums, and became a staple early in my speaker quest when the B&W 683's failed to sound good to it. I am happy to report that the Dali's did well, though again I thought they sounded a bit bright. I am sure that is due to the ribbon tweeter. They actually made my ears tingle, like they were stimulating all the little hairs in my ears that I usually do not use for normal hearing. I was left feeling that the Dali's reach far above the audible sound spectrum, and your dog would probably be happy to finally hear all of the music. Talking with the salesman about this he recommended pairing any Dali speaker with a tube amp to mellow the highs a bit, I think that is probably a very good suggestion. I really like the Dali sound, but I am not sure they would be a great choice for my solid state electronics, and hardwood floors. I do think that those who own them and have gotten accustomed to their high-end will think that everything else is lackluster. Nice speakers.Era D-10
Moving from the Dali's into anything with out a ribbon (or plasma) tweeter is bound to leave the new guy sounding a bit dull, and it did. I was relatively unimpressed with the D-10's (I had never even heard of ERA, but they had just gotten them in and wanted to hear how they compared to the other stuff I was listening to, so I was game). They had a smooth sound but seemed to be lacking deep bass, and a bit thin in the mids. The D-14's solved both of those problems nicely, with the inclusion of a mid-range driver in addition to the two woofers + tweeter arrangement of it's little brother. I thought that the tweeter sounded a bit restrained though. This could be because the speakers had just come out of the boxes and had very little if any play time on them (if you believe in break in), or because the Dali's had ruined my perception of clear highs forever ) All in all, I feel that the Era D-14's are deserving of a second listen, with fresh ears...Usher Be-718 "Tiny dancers"
okay, way out of my stated price range, but street price is close to street price of the Hawks, and I have read some glowing reviews about these babies... Started with Eryka Bahdu, and they provided some astoundingly rich and deep bass for their "bookshelf" size, they truly have more of a floor-stander sound. Put on Fela Kuti and WOW! awesome imaging, great clarity. The brass horns on this recording were outstanding, the beryllium tweeter presented them very crisp and natural, without the extremely sharp edge of the ribbons. They gave a very FULL-range sound. Next, I tried the Grant Green. His guitar came across with a very nice tone (one of the things I love about Grant Green), piano sounded like the invisible man was playing an invisible baby grand in front of me. Very smooth speaker. I played the Beatles and was not disappointed, the bass was tight, thick, and punchy. I am not sure if Paul uses the Hoffner (sp?) or Rickenbacker bass on Abbey Road but I have always been in love with it's sound especially on that album, that thick meaty Ka-chunk that he gets... A solid reproduction of that specific sound is what I am looking for in a speaker, and the Usher Be-718 has it, so too does the Hawk (I just realized that yesterday when listening to the Tiny Dancers). As you can probably tell, I was digging these speakers so I wanted to try something I hadn't listened to on anything else yet, Galactic. Another of my favorite bands, these guys are a Jam band from New Orleans and play their own blend of somewhat drum oriented Jazz/Funk/Rock/hip-hop/R&B. I used their live set, which is IMO very well recorded. The Ushers did well, again. Music sounded "live," tight drums and a solid bottom end. I keep coming back to things sounding like they should on the Be-718's, just very natural... I am hesitant to say "Neutral," because that is not what I got from them. I think "Natural" is more appropriate. Okay, so I had to play the Fu Manchu last, and they did well with it, very nice presentation, though they came off sounding just a touch bright with the Fu. Fantastic speaker.Totem "Hawk"
I had to listen to these last as they were my current favorites, kind of to put them all into perspective. Started with Fu Manchu on the Hawks and the salesman thought they seemed to reach a bit lower than the Usher Be-718. That may be true, but what I noticed was that between the two speakers their midrange presentation was the most different (actually we thought the two speakers had a very similar sound, overall). The Hawks mids were slightly more laid back, the Be-718's more forward. My opinion was reinforced when we listened to Fela Kuti and the brass section came up, crisp and clear on the Hawks, though not as forward as on the Be-718. Listening to the Beatles on the Hawks made me miss the 150watts from my first listen. They sounded less punchy than I remembered, I am sure that is because of the electronics. The Hawks are a less efficient speaker than the Ushers, though both are power hungry. We had to turn the volume knob up to about 10:00 for both (most of the other listening was done around the 9:00 position).
So, I still have some more to hear on my list before I drop the cash, but as it stands now I have a hard choice between two excellent speakers, that both cost more than I wanted to spendJump to Round 6Jump to Round 7Jump to Round 8Jump to Preliminary Round UpJump to Round 9Jump to Round 10Jump to Round 11Jump to Round 12Jump to Final Round ?Music used during my auditions:(part 1)(part 2)(part 3)2008 year end summary...My SalkSound Custom Veracity HT3s and HTC