Sony BDV-570 vs Energy Take 5 vs Pinnacle MB8000 vs Paradigm 70CT vs Definitive S60/600 vs B&W M1
OK, first post here guys, so be kind. I'm not an audiophile, but I know good sound when I hear it. I've have an older Class A diesel motorhome in which I've been reconstructing the front cabinets to fit a 32" LCD TV and taken that opportunity to provision for a surround sound system. Sorry for the novel, but I’m covering a lot of ground.
Space is very tight, hence I’m looking at mini systems. The boxes for my front L/R is 20” wide x 5” high x 6” deep. My center channel area is about the same, but I can go slightly longer…could go with a sound bar, but would prefer separates. Rear speakers need to be very small, Energys and Defintives are about the right size. Subwoofer is going under a sofa which gives me 10” height unless I modify the sofa base. I will be using the for music and theatre and was hoping to spend about $600 for everything.
Figured one of the HTIBs would work. Tried the Sony BDV-570 which fit all my size requirements. Lots of functionality in small package, but the sound was terrible, barely passable for home theatre, horrible for music…no mid-range, highs were thin and almost “scratchy and sub was boomy and didn’t fill in mid-range very well. I also couldn’t get the L/Rs and center to balance well. So sent that back. So on to real surround systems, which blows my $600 budget.
I've read through all the various forums on the Energy take 5.1, Pinnacle MB8000, Definitive 60/600, and Paradigm CT series. Unfortunately, I'm using older receivers (Pioneer, Onkyo) that don't have Audessy (have Denon 2310 on order). That and the fact local stores don't have more than one of these systems really limits my ability to compare the complete systems. So I only tested the L/Rs and surrounds. All these systems use the same drivers (usually an extra mid-range) in the center speakers...exeptions are Energy and B&W which use same number of drivers with energy adding front firing ports. So I’ve assumed the centers will sound similar with more of the same quality mid-range. I bought both the Energy Take 5.1 (Amazon) and the Pinnacle MB8000 (Dell) and took the L/R and sats with me to the stores to A/B test. One store had the Definitives and another had the Paradigms and B&W.
Here are my conclusions based on my unscientific comparison.
The B&W M1s were the best of the bunch, but they are also twice the price ($400/pair + $200 for center + $500 for sub). These also have a 4” mid-range vs 3” and 3.5” of the others. But I’m considering them due to their size. The mid range was the best of the bunch and the tweeter provided good definition and full range. They were slightly less defined than the Pinnacle tweeters (less bright), but the highs had a smooth quality while retaining a lot of definition. They have a proprietary mounting system which will create some challenges for me.
The Pinnacle MB8000’s (S-Fit 150 & 250) have an awesome tweeter…they provide very clear definition (very bright, but not harsh), full range and the sound reproduction sounds very real. The mid-ranges are also clear, but do not reach very low. The center speaker includes two mid-range drivers in w/ a larger cabinet, but that doesn't really help…it just provides more of the same mid-range. I should mention that they were the least efficient of the all the speakers by a good margin. So they require more power. I did try out the subwoofer on this system and it seemed to actually fill in the gap pretty well. There was still a slight gap in the lower mid-range, but very small, much smaller than the Definitives. The trade off is the sub doesn’t go really low and can be overpowered when pushed hard. So rap or hip-hop enthusiasts won’t be happy with this sub for music. Although the sub fits my space, the speakers do not.
The Definitive’s mid-range was similar to the Pinnacles, but the tweeter didn’t reach as high or provide as much definition, but were good enough. However, the matching sub didn’t fill in the mid-range well enough which left a sizable gap in the lower mid-range. This is actually OK for movies since you don’t miss much in this area, but it’s noticeable with music.
The Paradigm CT70’s were very similar to the Definitives, but given I couldn’t A/B test them, I can’t give a direct comparison. I can only say I had the exact same impressions when comparing them to the Energy’s and the Pinnacles as I had when I tested the Definitives.
The Energys use the same speaker for L/R and sats. They have impressive mid-range, particularly if you can position them to make best use of the rear ports. However, they sound a little hollow compared to the B&Ws (not as rich). With the ports plugged, they still have better mid-range than all but the B&Ws, and you gain some definition, but loose a little of the low mid-range. Even then they far out perform Def Techs, Paradigms & Pinnacles. Leaving the ports open in a suboptimal position (e.g. my boxes) can make them sound worse…almost distorted. The place the Energy’s fall apart in highs. They have the worst sounding tweeter of the lot. Even when pumping up the treble they still still missed sounds the Pinnacles picked up with flat eq settings. I didn’t try the sub, but assume it probably blends nicely with the L/Rs since their mid-range goes pretty low. They are also the most efficient of the bunch, requiring the least amount of power for volume. However, none of that makes up for the lack of highs. The sub also happens to be too big for my size limits. So I’ll be returning them. It would be ideal for me if the Energy’s had the tweeters and the sub from the Pinnacle system.
Not sure if I’ll return the Pinnacles yet. They were such a good deal for what you’re getting ($275) and I could end up loosing $100 in shipping and restocking fees. I may use them for our master bedroom.
Turns out the Martin Logan MLT-2 speakers is the same think as the Paradigm Cinema CT90s and the CC. The MLT-1 speakers are the same as the Paradigm Cinema CT70s.