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Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SE vs Arx A1b - Page 5

post #121 of 152
Stage 5: Impressions - Jazz

I'm up, so I might as well type...........

I got to listen to some Duke Ellington and Miles Davis last pm ( Ken Burns series on Jazz on CD)...........same setup as before, just alternating speaker sets. Volume here is comfortable - above "background" music level, below " wife saying please turn it down some" level.

Both sets of speakers display very nice detail in how they reproduce jazz instruments. Both sets of speakers accurately convey the technology of recording of the time - sometimes sounds as if the actual reel-to-reel tape is being played. The Ascends sound warmer here without being overly bright. The Arxs sound somewhat darker and more studio-like.......not filtered, but as if the music is being piped in from the recording studio room.

Both sets of speakers convey the musicality of sax and horn solos - the Arxs maybe....maybe a little more so. Vocals on "You Ain't Got a Thing....." come though loud and clear with nuances of the singer and inflections of her voice heard clearly on both.( I listened to this song 3 or 4 times back and forth on both sets - the Ascends sound brighter than the Arxs, but it's not an unpleasant sound, just slightly different). Bass on both come through, a little more on the Arxs, as if the bass player is plucking right there. Piano here ( when out of the background) has slightly more detail on the Arxs, but only slightly.

The best statement I can make here is both sets reproduce the feeling of the music of the time/ material played well. The Ascends have a slightly more "live" feel and the Arxs a slightly more "studio" feel. Pick your preference.

Will get some classical stuff later in the week........more DVDs up next in a couple of days..........

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #122 of 152
Thread Starter 
^^^
Very well written, detailed review. The best one yet imo.

Once you choose a pair do you intend on using a sub when listening to music or just the speakers alone?
post #123 of 152
Will eventually get a sub for the HT experience, but not soon..........for music, I like what I have so far.......
post #124 of 152
Addendum to Stage 5............

Got to listen to some Glenn Miller this am ( Bluebird recording of "greatest hits")...........at moderate and at moderate plus levels ( at the volume my wife would normally say "Turn it down").

The Ascends definitely project well and are more lively ( ?brighter) at higher volumes...........much more of a "live" experience, but with detail.

The Arxs show the same amount of detail, but in a restrained fashion.........not the same excitement at louder volumes as the Ascends......


If you like jazz/big band and like it at "live" levels, the Ascends are for you in this comparison..........

PS Pennsylvania 6-5000 is such a wonderful song to listen to in this genre.....................
post #125 of 152
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Will eventually get a sub for the HT experience, but not soon..........for music, I like what I have so far.......

Your route is similar to mine, with the exception that I only bought the 170 SEs. I received them yesterday. I plan on using them alone at first and then will hopefully get a sub, something like the hsu vtf-1 mk2. Maybe a center channel at some point. I still need speaker stands. I also am considering replacing my dresser with an AV furniture stand so I can have my TV and components in one unit. I'm having trouble finding a ~$500 AV stand that is ~32" tall. My dresser is 33" tall which places my eyeline at the optimal bottom 1/3 of the screen height.
post #126 of 152
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Addendum to Stage 5............
Got to listen to some Glenn Miller this am ( Bluebird recording of "greatest hits")...........at moderate and at moderate plus levels ( at the volume my wife would normally say "Turn it down").
The Ascends definitely project well and are more lively ( ?brighter) at higher volumes...........much more of a "live" experience, but with detail.
The Arxs show the same amount of detail, but in a restrained fashion.........not the same excitement at louder volumes as the Ascends......
If you like jazz/big band and like it at "live" levels, the Ascends are for you in this comparison..........
PS Pennsylvania 6-5000 is such a wonderful song to listen to in this genre.....................

Man, I can only imagine how hard it would have been for me to decide between the A1b and 170 SE had I auditioned both. My music and movie tastes are so varied.
post #127 of 152
Great review so far padgman. Its going to be tough to send either one of those back it sounds like. Good thing it ends up being a win win from your review.
post #128 of 152
Thread Starter 
padgman1, I know you touched on this in your reviews, but thought I'd ask outright. I've gone back over your reviews, but am a little unclear. I'm not sure if by saying that the 170 SEs are "more of a live experience" you mean they have a larger soundstage.

To your ears, which has the larger soundstage and/or better imaging?
Edited by p3Orion - 1/9/13 at 8:13am
post #129 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3Orion View Post

To your ears, which has the larger soundstage and/or better imaging?
Soundstage is an interesting thing. A speaker engineer can make the soundstage seem wider by doing a number of things, the problem is there is no definition of what the recording engineer intended, so the soundstage can be made bigger or smaller...a preference of the speaker designer/engineer. Imaging is a bit different, you can only get imaging as good as the what is on the recording.

If you can pinpoint a trumpet or piano within a soundstage on a recording, that is great imaging. If you want a bigger soundstage, that pinpoint imaging tends to spread out, which then loses its imaging in favor of soundstage.

There is a recording, and I can't remember the title, but in the center of the stage there is trumpet, trombone, and sax. With a great imaging system, you can locate each one...slightly to the left, center, and slightly to the right. Other systems, they seem like they are just all coming from the center.
Edited by cschang - 1/9/13 at 9:37am
post #130 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by cschang View Post

Soundstage is an interesting thing. A speaker engineer can make the soundstage seem wider by doing a number of things, the problem is there is no definition of what the recording engineer intended, so the soundstage can be made bigger or smaller...a preference of the speaker designer/engineer. Imaging is a bit different, you can only get imaging as good as the what is on the recording.
If you can pinpoint a trumpet or piano within a soundstage on a recording, that is great imaging. If you want a bigger soundstage, that pinpoint imaging tends to spread out, which then loses its imaging in favor of soundstage.
There is a recording, and I can't remember the title, but in the center of the stage there is trumpet, trombone, and sax. With great imaging system, you can locate each one...slightly to the left, center, and slightly to the right. Other systems, they seem like they are just all coming from the center.

So what measurement/graph should I look for if I prefer one image/soundstage over the other? Or is there one?
post #131 of 152
I have a hard time with the term soundstage and its definition as it applies here...........

The Ascends have a strong presence at all levels of volume ( and at lower "dial volume" level on my Denon 2113ci than the Arxs)..........you hear the sound well and can almost feel the midrange/highs here as well............not as much of a bass presence but it does come through...........

The Ascends blended better in the room with the Jazz / Big Band stuff than before, harder to echolocate............but The Arxs do this better with all forms of media so far.............

It seems to me the Ascends have more energy behind its sound............thus, to me, more of a "live" sounding experience..........
post #132 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

I have a hard time with the term soundstage and its definition as it applies here...........
The Ascends have a strong presence at all levels of volume ( and at lower "dial volume" level on my Denon 2113ci than the Arxs)..........you hear the sound well and can almost feel the midrange/highs here as well............not as much of a bass presence but it does come through...........
The Ascends blended better in the room with the Jazz / Big Band stuff than before, harder to echolocate............but The Arxs do this better with all forms of media so far.............
It seems to me the Ascends have more energy behind its sound............thus, to me, more of a "live" sounding experience..........
Are you trying to describe where the listener is positioned compared to the performance?

Like you are seated in the orchestra/first section vs a rear section or balcony when listening to a band/orchestra?
post #133 of 152
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

The Ascend speakers...Piano tones sound realistic as if being played in room. Can definitely locate speakers in space.

The Arx speakers...Very difficult to echolocate these speakers; they blend in well, with TV the sound APPEARS to be coming from it when in actuality, the TV speakers have been turned off...Piano tones sound real but distant, as if across the room instead of right there.

This is the part that confused me. When you stated "Can definitely locate speakers in space," I wasn't sure if you meant you could really locate the positioning of the piano (good imaging) or not. And when you stated "the sound APPEARS to be coming from it [TV]," I wasn't sure if that indicated that the soundstage was small. Finally, when you said "Piano tones sound real but distant, as if across the room instead of right there," I wasn't sure if that meant good or less than good imaging and/or soundstage.
post #134 of 152
Thread Starter 
Just had to say that this is a really good discussion. I am learning a lot. Appreciate the insight.
post #135 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by gtpsuper24 View Post

So what measurement/graph should I look for if I prefer one image/soundstage over the other? Or is there one?
That's a good question, and I don't know the answers, but I am pretty sure they are measurements that we consumers don't readily have access to. I believe polar measurements are some of them.

The room and placement are also factors.
post #136 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by cschang View Post

Are you trying to describe where the listener is positioned compared to the performance?
Like you are seated in the orchestra/first section vs a rear section or balcony when listening to a band/orchestra?

Maybe first section vs first row in balcony, but yes, I think so..............
post #137 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3Orion View Post

This is the part that confused me. When you stated "Can definitely locate speakers in space," I wasn't sure if you meant you could really locate the positioning of the piano (good imaging) or not. And when you stated "the sound APPEARS to be coming from it [TV]," I wasn't sure if that indicated that the soundstage was small. Finally, when you said "Piano tones sound real but distant, as if across the room instead of right there," I wasn't sure if that meant good or less than good imaging and/or soundstage.

Yeah I was kind of confused by it somewhat too. Theres not a right or wrong answer though. I think alot of guys stereophile types work toward having the L/R main image perfectly in the center for the kind of "bubble" effect. Some like the idea of a phantom center so interpeting what the padgman said the Arx would be better in that regard. The sound coming from the TV which I take it as they are producing the desirable phantom center effect.

I'm actually kind of surprised in a way because the common misconception is that ribbons/planars only have a sweet spot and very narrow bright sound but this is show the exact opposite. And one thing I noticed too using the Arx is the nice soundstage.
post #138 of 152
Let me add some thoughts on design and how it impacts dimensional placement. First, there is no way to measure it and therefore there is no way, in general, to predict it. Second, excellent placement within a sweep of sound - pinpoint imaging in a soundstage, to use the vernacular - are fundamentally linked. You cannot have one without the other as a simple function of a passive point-source loudspeaker.

(You can get a sense of heightened diffusion of sound from processing, non-point-source systems, and even odd design, but unless you really intent to include it, it is just not a function of normal design. Authentic, natural, source-derived 3D is 3D in all dimensions and ways.)

Naturally, clarity or definition places sources in relation to how they were recorded. Clarity is not an excess of information because an excess of information is, by definition, ringing, which is distortion. Distortion dissolves the placement and stage to some degree and replaces them with a more undefined energy.

Obviously these are words employed to try and describe a far more complex subject. Just as we struggle to define sound to one another we can't rely on prose to categorize the effects of design, especially when the design is distinguished by subtleties. In short, anything that is added to the mix or live event that did not occur in the mix or event is an additive coloration and should be, in theory, removed - you'll see marketers mention this. Doing so is an infinitely harder proposition, yet the philosophy well aimed at it generally delivers a more realistic dimensional perspective on the recording. It does so in all dimensions and it does so generally in concert with a greater dynamic ease of sound as if there were more room in the recreated event for real content.

This said, maximum real, "organic", authentic information is another goal and any effort to damp or remove additive colorations should bear in mind not to go too far and lose that genuine information - we want absolutely as much of it as we can possibly get.

In my view the best designs have a combination of excellent inter-note blackness, excellent dimensional perspective, and excellent resolution so as to populate that blank canvas. In my experience getting this right - which is may be debatable in a $300 product - lies in a narrow range never predicated on any one measurement, if any at all.

This dynamic is not at all unlike the dynamic that exists at the other end of a system involving another electro-mechanical transducer system, the record playback system. Just as a speaker parameter describes its ratio of risetime speed to energy storage, there has been an ongoing effort to find some middle ground between lossy and very rigid record playback systems. If overdamped, the former become dark and uninvolving, and if underdamped the latter become forward, brash, and fatiguing. What I find interesting is that in the pursuit of too much energy the real recorded energy is smeared and obscured - in a sense, too much is not enough just as not enough is not enough. The designer's job is to hunt around this narrow range and extract what s/he thinks is the right ratio. Too, s/he has to balance this subjectivity to the anticipated use level that product will most commonly encounter.

Speakers are complex, highly "analog" devices that do not relate to some of our preconceptions about electronics; they are not represented by linear, predictable ones and zeroes. Designing for that narrow ratio of too much and too little involves complexity not represented well by either measurement or dialog. This is a subjective art that employs an increasing degree of objective science.

When in doubt, listen. Oh, and two words of advice: Always compare to music and not to the next component on your list. And don't try to listen because the stress will start to shut down your perception. Like great music and great performances, let it come to you.
Edited by Jon Lane - 1/9/13 at 11:22am
post #139 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by gtpsuper24 View Post

...the common misconception is that ribbons/planars only have a sweet spot and very narrow bright sound but this is show the exact opposite. And one thing I noticed too using the Arx is the nice soundstage.

Well-integrated designs give faint evidence of their technologies...
post #140 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Lane View Post







.
When in doubt, listen. Oh, and two words of advice: Always compare to music and not to the next component on your list. And don't try to listen because the stress will start to shut down your perception. Like great music and great performances, let it come to you.






Truer words never were spoken...............
post #141 of 152
great detailed reviews and excellent information between 2 sets. superb.
post #142 of 152
Thread Starter 
I've heard the comment that if you like x,y,z music then get this particular speaker and if you like a,b,c music then get this particular speaker. Is there certain types of music that the CBM-170 SE shines with? Same question for the A1bs. Conversely, are there types of music that don't sound as good with each speaker?
post #143 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3Orion View Post

I've heard the comment that if you like x,y,z music then get this particular speaker and if you like a,b,c music then get this particular speaker. Is there certain types of music that the CBM-170 SE shines with? Same question for the A1bs. Conversely, are there types of music that don't sound as good with each speaker?
+1 I'd like to know this as well
post #144 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3Orion View Post

I've heard the comment that if you like x,y,z music then get this particular speaker and if you like a,b,c music then get this particular speaker. Is there certain types of music that the CBM-170 SE shines with? Same question for the A1bs. Conversely, are there types of music that don't sound as good with each speaker?

I think the '170 is a well rounded speaker and will sound good on many types of material if not all types. The same goes for Arx. I think a preference for one over the other is going to be a listener issue and not an indicator of the defect of a design or product. They are both very good speakers.

Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2
post #145 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by BufordTJustice View Post

I think the '170 is a well rounded speaker and will sound good on many types of material if not all types. The same goes for Arx. I think a preference for one over the other is going to be a listener issue and not an indicator of the defect of a design or product. They are both very good speakers.

Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2

I can't speak for the Arx, but owing a pair of 170's, pretty much everything I listen to on them sounds very nice to me. I listen to a wide variety of music, goth, industrial, punk, metal, rock(of all sorts), 80's, alternative, classical(Us and Them Symphonic Pink Floyd is a really great album), soundtracks(scores as well as music), ambient, experimental, electronic, dance and dub. One thing I have noticed when listening to them is I find them to be an accurate speaker. In other words, they will reveal a recording for everything it is. If the recording is poor, it will sound just that, poor. There are CD's I own that before getting the 170's I thought sounded really, really good, but when listening to those recordings through the 170's as opposed to my Athena AS-B1's, the poor recording quality came through. As a comparison I picked a few of the Rush Remaster CD's, namely Hold Your Fire, Presto, and Roll The Bones. When listening to the original copies, they lacked dynamic punch and overall definition. Geddy's bass wasn't really that well defined, and Neil's kick drum lacked punch. Listening to the Remasters, Geddy's bass had more definition and his vocals appeared much more clean and distinct. Neil's kick drum had the punch that it didn't before. A side note is that I listen to music with my Velodyne VX-11 to add a little more punch in the bass department. But these are my opinions, and yours will vary as we don't hear things the same, not saying you per se Buford but just in general.
Edited by darkpoet25 - 1/10/13 at 11:30pm
post #146 of 152
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkpoet25 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by BufordTJustice View Post

I think the '170 is a well rounded speaker and will sound good on many types of material if not all types. The same goes for Arx. I think a preference for one over the other is going to be a listener issue and not an indicator of the defect of a design or product. They are both very good speakers.

Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2

I can't speak for the Arx, but owing a pair of 170's, pretty much everything I listen to on them sounds very nice to me. I listen to a wide variety of music, goth, industrial, punk, metal, rock(of all sorts), 80's, alternative, classical(Us and Them Symphonic Pink Floyd is a really great album), soundtracks(scores as well as music), ambient, experimental, electronic, dance and dub. One thing I have noticed when listening to them is I find them to be an accurate speaker. In other words, they will reveal a recording for everything it is. If the recording is poor, it will sound just that, poor. There are CD's I own that before getting the 170's I thought sounded really, really good, but when listening to those recordings through the 170's as opposed to my Athena AS-B1's, the poor recording quality came through. As a comparison I picked a few of the Rush Remaster CD's, namely Hold Your Fire, Presto, and Roll The Bones. When listening to the original copies, they lacked dynamic punch and overall definition. Geddy's bass was really that well defined, and Neil's kick drum lacked punch. Listening to the Remasters, Geddy's bass had more definition and his vocals appeared much more clean and distinct. Neil's kick drum had the punch that it didn't before. A side note is that I listen to music with my Velodyne VX-11 to add a little more punch in the bass department. But these are my opinions, and yours will vary as we don't hear things the same, not saying you per se Buford but just in general.

I'm on the same page with you. smile.gif

Thanks for chiming in. That was well written. I agree that quality speakers should reveal flaws just as much as they reveal quality material.

I value my quality recordings even more now.

Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2
post #147 of 152
post #148 of 152
Since my classical material has not materialized yet ( will ask for it from my friend this evening), I had to resort to some ELO at lunch today ( finally had some time to listen).

On both "Showdown" and "Evil Woman", both speakers at room-filling ( but not reference) volumes display "presence" ( soundstage) and detail with various ( electronic) instrumentation. The Ascends tend to fill the room more at comparative volumes. The Arxs show deeper and well as more nuanced bass........nothing new to me from previous material. What WAS surprising was hearing certain instrumental sounds form the Arxs that made you go "What was that?"......"Was that there before?" In going back to "critically listen' to these songs from both speakers, these instrumental sounds are present from both sets of speakers..........but only from the Arxs were they INITIALLY noticeable........

What I have also noticed is both sets of speakers are displaying more nuances of character from my initial impressions. I think the bass in the Ascends has improved in the past 2-3 weeks.......I notice the bass tracks from various media ( TV, CD's DVD"s) more. I like the Ascend's brighter sound compared to the Arxs, especially with TV dialogue.....easier to hear at medium volumes ( now, these Ascends are not overtly bright, just brighter sounding than the Arxs........). I also think the Arxs are opening up more in the midrange, because it has become easier to notice instrumentation nuances ( piano, guitar,drums) than before........and the bass just keeps getting better..........

Eventually I can see the Ascends as rear/surrounds "+" speakers in a 5.1 system with the Arxs as L/R fronts, but using both sets as mains when watching TV ( as the crowd noise eminating from the Ascends at close range from behind would be highly energetic)...........

Bottom line: You can't go wrong with EITHER set of speakers.......it comes down to listener preference, as both Darkpoet and Buford have noted........just glad I have BOTH biggrin.gif
post #149 of 152
I just read through this thread, and I'm wondering what happened? Did you decide on your goto speaker out of these two, padgman1? smile.gif

Also, I'm thinking about replacing my Energy Veritas 5.1s that I use in my desktop computer setup for nearfield use. Any thoughts on whether or not one of these might perform better nearfield?
post #150 of 152
Cel, I have the Arxs on the stands.........the Ascends I use when I want more volume for TV listening, and they allow dialogue to be heard a little more clearly( don't have a center channel yet, waiting on the "new and improved" 2b/2c to come back/out)

I am still amazed at the soundstage and imaging of these $300 speakers ( Jim Wilson was as well, writing a detailed and superb review of the A1b and A2b speakers in a 3.0 set - it's referenced in the Arx owners thread).

I think the Ascends would be a very good nearfield speaker as material can be heard a little more distinctly as lower volumes........but if cranking it for game use, the Arxs would shine.......

Still waiting to play more classical material, but I am now involved in my "artsy" months ( community play and community band playing tuba), so I don't have as much time to devote to this...........
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