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Comparison: Cambridge Audio S30, Monitor Audio RX1, Paradigm Studio 20 V.3 (Pics/Videos inside)

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I wanted to share some thoughts with you as I received a ton of things last week to enjoy and bring my experiences to our community.

I've got some thoughts on each, this is not a shootout because I understand each speaker is drastically different from one another I wanted to compare sizes, sounds, and finishes for anyone considering something from the like.. The purpose for the testing and comparison was to create a "listening room" with the best speakers I had with no subwoofer. All

All speakers heard from an Audio Technica AT-LP120 with a Shure M97xE. Amplified by my new Emotiva mini-X a-100.

First, here is a crummy cell phone picture of all of them by size:

From left to right: Cambridge Audio S30, Monitor Audio RX-1, Paradigm Studio 20 V.3

Again, from left to right: Cambridge Audio S30, Monitor Audio RX-1, Paradigm Studio 20 V.3

Thoughts on the Cambridge Audio S30:
This is one of my favorite speakers in the world. It is so small and so unassuming, if there weren't hundreds of comments about how amazing these speakers are, I'd tell you myself. These two little speakers made me replace an entire Infinity Primus 5.1 system because they're so clear and clean. The silk-dome tweeter is very nice, quite smooth, and sometimes a little bright to my ears. I've noticed some sibilance in different audio modes on a Denon 1713 but for $219 bucks, there just is not a better speaker out there for the money. The mid bass is very punchy and impressive for such a small speaker and they are incredibly crisp and clear in their reproduction. It wasn't until I did this comparison that I realized any of their short comings. II found myself wanting a little more lower extension because I am not using a subwoofer in this application. I know why these speakers are so perfect with the SB1000 because there is a nice roll off into where a sub would fill. I noticed that there is a very obvious seam where the oak veneer meets on the under side of the speaker, no problems aesthetically unless you listen to them upside down, but interesting that they're the one of the three that has this seam. I noticed as I listened to Miles Davis that there was some definition, some slight muddiness with the volume at about 70%.
Overall: I like the look of the speakers, but love the sound. While they played at mildly high volumes for this test, there was some lack of refinement as the instruments came together. They do image well and the sound stage is quite large (not in this test). They'll remain in my bedroom for now!

Here is a crummy video from my phone of the S30 Playing Dear Old Stockholm (alternate version) from Miles Davis:

Thoughts on the Monitor Audio RX-1
I bought this set to match my RS-6's in the living room. I am so amazed by Monitor Audio, their finish is incredible. I know it was recently said that the Gold series are leaps and bounds over the Silver. I would be impressed to see them, the Silvers look so great to me. No seams, no imperfections, it is just incredible! The new tweeters on the RX series seem a bit more defined at high points particularly while Miles plays over his band there is a wealth of detail that I found in these tweeters that I never knew/appreciated before. The woofer is nice, their new dimple design looks pretty cool and goes a bit deeper than the S30's. Both the S30 and the RX-1 are rear ported and are probably closer related to each other than the Paradigm's. Of all speakers the RX-1's seem to play music most naturally. Little to no unnatural coloration exists on these speakers. I think these speakers mixed with a sub would be a brilliant setup for a 2.1 system in someones home. They're really great. The highs are smoother and the imaging is clearer than the S30's. These speakers are simply pleasant to listen to. If they were not "rosenut" in color, they would be my Listening Room speakers. I cannot say enough great things about these speakers. I can imagine the RX-2's are better but I can't imagine by much. Like all the Monitor Audio product's I've ever experienced, the RX-1's are fantastic. One other cool thing I like about the RX-1's is they don't have holes for the grille, there is a magnet in the wood that allows them to rest securely without taking away from the finish. I love it!
Overall These are beautiful speakers, for those who care about aesthetics of a speaker and are on a budget, you should consider looking to the Monitor Audio Silver (and up) speakers. The sound is great like I expected it to be. My only gripe is the stain is a little darker than the RS-6's so those using them to match may want to have a room distance to separate them.

Here is how they look mounted on VideoSecu MS56B speaker mounts. Note: this is not how they sit when I listen to them and the wires are not done yet.


Here is a video of the RX-1's playing the same song:
Thoughts on the Paradigm Studio 20 V.3
I purchased these speakers about a month or so ago and was underwhelmed. They sounded airy and muffled on a Yamaha RXV565 listening to .FLAC audio. I will tell you that I'm amazed by how great they sound through the Emotiva amp and with a better turntable/cartridge. I will add the Jazz songs I listened to sound amazing on the Studio 20's; however, I do notice that they color the sound a bit. The highs I heard moments earlier from the other speakers were significantly different albeit beautiful in their own regard. I acquired the taste for the sound pretty quickly but it should be noted that they are different from most speakers in their sound. I don't know how they would sound for Hip Hop or Metal, but for they are amazing for Jazz music. I think if I had to be on at 2.0 system for an entire theater system/music system the Paradigm's are what I would want. The extension is incredibly low for bookshelf speakers, they are LOUD and at about 50% volume play house filling sound with crystal clarity. These are the speakers I'm keeping in the listening room because they're probably the best unassisted (no sub) speakers I own. The speakers are very cool looking, the top has a raised portion to support the tweeter. The veneer is quite fake looking, it looks almost a little like plastic. I would hope for more if I were to spend full price on these speakers.
Overall These speakers are huge, and loud. They are an amazing setup if you want a 2.0 system. They can handle a lot of wattage and volume without any signs of distortion. They're sure nice with the Emotiva amp, but on lesser electronics they sound a bit airy and less forgiving to poor artist recording. I wish the finish looked more natural.

Here the Studio's play the same song:
Here is the Listening Room:






Additionally, I absolutely LOVE my Emotiva amp. It is much larger and louder than I expected. I love it!

Thanks for reading!
Edited by Valtyr - 9/9/13 at 7:14pm
post #2 of 28
Good deal. Thanks.
post #3 of 28
Very nice review/comparison. I've spent a lot of time with the S30 and RX1. (Haven't heard the Paradigm.)

Whole heartedly agree with your comments re the S30 and RX 1. The only caveat would be that I think the RX1 is actually better than the RX2. The RX2 is a bigger speaker and, as expected, goes deeper and louder than the RX1. But to my ears there is something special about how balanced/even the RX1 is, esp. for music listening. A real sweet spot in the MA line up wink.gif
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
sdg4vfx, thank you for your comment. I'm really impressed to hear that the RX-1 (to you) sounds better than the RX-2. I agree that not much could improve on this sound quality in the same line from a company, Maybe they're just louder to match the RX-8.

I am thoroughly impressed with all three of them but I think the RX-1 may be my favorite.
post #5 of 28
Great review smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

I acquired the taste for the sound pretty quickly but it should be noted that they are different from most speakers in their sound.

I thought that was an interesting point because I believe that there is some psychological adjustment that happens in listening to speakers. This is why I think direct AB testing of speaker sometimes fails as a way to evaluate the "flavor" of speaker sound and preference for one over the other. Speaker A's sonic signature might overwhelm Speaker B, even though if one's palette is clear and one gives time to Speaker B, the listening might enjoy Speaker B as much. Sort of like the way that if you take a bite of rich spicy Mexican food and then follow it with a bite of more subtle flavored cuisine, the latter can taste too bland.

Glad you like the Emotiva Mini-x a-100. I've been wanting to hear it smile.gif
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks Cel, that is a really great point.

I did not know about any obvious shortcomings of the S30 until I heard them next to the other two. It tells me that it is a small speaker, but I still love them and will continue to recommend them because they are the best value in the price range in my opinion.

I went out on a limb and got the Emotiva over an integrated receiver because I like how it looks. I was worried that 50 watts wouldn't be loud, but they're every bit a loud as a ~"100 watt" Denon 1713. I'm shocked by the difference in numbers between the two. If you're in the market for one, get it! I love mine and I know my opinion generally follows yours quite closely.
post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

If you're in the market for one, get it! I love mine and I know my opinion generally follows yours quite closely.

LOL

I don't need one. I just want to try one in my computer desktop setup, and I have to resist that temptation smile.gif
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

LOL

I don't need one. I just want to try one in my computer desktop setup, and I have to resist that temptation smile.gif
Just do it! biggrin.gif
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bond 007 View Post

Just do it! biggrin.gif

I think I can resist. I passed up an opportunity on a excellent condition used one for $160 shipped available at another forum. So unless they go on good sale again at Emotiva, the cheap bastard in me won't let me buy one biggrin.gif
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

I think I can resist. I passed up an opportunity on a excellent condition used one for $160 shipped available at another forum. So unless they go on good sale again at Emotiva, the cheap bastard in me won't let me buy one biggrin.gif
Cheap bastard!? eek.gif You have a better computer setup than my home theater! smile.gif
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
I'm unclear how to link a Subwoofer to the Emotiva, I don't think it can be done... Any thoughts?

I just bought an RCA switcher so I can plug in my phone or tablet, plus have access to vinyl.

Cel, what do you have at your pc?
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

I'm unclear how to link a Subwoofer to the Emotiva, I don't think it can be done... Any thoughts?

You need a subwoofer with speaker level connections:

Amp > Sub Speaker Level Inputs
Sub Speaker Level Outputs > Speakers

Then you need to adjust the crossover on the sub to blend it with the speakers. However, the speakers will still receive the full range input from the amp, only a sub with a high-pass filter will separate the signals.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

Cel, what do you have at your pc?

An ODAC running to a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp/pre-amp, which then connects to an SVS SB-1000, with the 80hz high pass line outs connecting to an Indeed t-amp.

If you'd like a good headphone amp/dac/pre-amp, I just picked up a used Maverick TubeMagic D1 for a setup in a different room. Nice thing about it is it has USB, coxial, & optical DAC inputs, as well analog input, and then two sets of RCA outputs, one which runs through a tube pre-amp. You can hook all kinds of stuff up to it, and it has very good headphone sound smile.gif
post #14 of 28
Nice review. I agree with your assessment on the Paradigms improving with higher quality equipment. I have experienced the same in my comp setup.
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post

You need a subwoofer with speaker level connections:

Amp > Sub Speaker Level Inputs
Sub Speaker Level Outputs > Speakers

Then you need to adjust the crossover on the sub to blend it with the speakers. However, the speakers will still receive the full range input from the amp, only a sub with a high-pass filter will separate the signals.

I think I get it now.

For example on my SB1000 it has line in and line out. So I'd just plug the Emotiva into the sub then use the output to get sub+speakers?


(Not my picture)
Edited by Valtyr - 9/9/13 at 6:47pm
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

An ODAC running to a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp/pre-amp, which then connects to an SVS SB-1000, with the 80hz high pass line outs connecting to an Indeed t-amp.

If you'd like a good headphone amp/dac/pre-amp, I just picked up a used Maverick TubeMagic D1 for a setup in a different room. Nice thing about it is it has USB, coxial, & optical DAC inputs, as well analog input, and then two sets of RCA outputs, one which runs through a tube pre-amp. You can hook all kinds of stuff up to it, and it has very good headphone sound smile.gif

Does this only work for headphones? I've never been much of a headphone guy. I have some Sol Republics but they're more for show than anything else.

Do you have a thread of all your stuff? I'd love to peruse!
Quote:
Originally Posted by drewTT View Post

Nice review. I agree with your assessment on the Paradigms improving with higher quality equipment. I have experienced the same in my comp setup.

Funny how that works huh? I read someone saying that they don't believe equipment makes a sound difference, I guess this is more of adequate power vs starving a powerful speaker, but I can see clearly now, the sound is improved to my ears!
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

I think I get it now.

For example on my SB1000 it has line in and line out. So I'd just plug the Emotiva into the sub then use the output to get sub+speakers?

Yes, but also set the crossover dial on the sub to 80hz. There's an 80hz high pass filter on the line out, so you need to match it with the low pass filter dial for the sub. That's one thing that drew to this sub.

But here's the thing. You have to have something controlling the volume in the audio chain before the sub. So with a computer, that's easy. But if you are running a line level component to the amp, won't work.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

Does this only work for headphones? I've never been much of a headphone guy. I have some Sol Republics but they're more for show than anything else

It has a good headphone amp, yes. But look at the pictures. See how it has an analog out and a tube pre-amp out? The regular analog out is a line direct--bypasses the pre-amp (and thus the volume control). The tube pre-amp out runs just like it sounds--through the pre-amp and the volume control. So it gives it a little tube coloring. And you can plug your amp (or amp/sub) right up to that. Then there is a switch on the front which lets you select between the various input devices.

You need to upgrade those Sol Republics. biggrin.gif
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 
Is there an easier way? Like something I can attach to the Amp that would make it send signal to the sub?
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

It has a good headphone amp, yes. But look at the pictures. See how it has an analog out and a tube pre-amp out? The regular analog out is a line direct--bypasses the pre-amp (and thus the volume control). The tube pre-amp out runs just like it sounds--through the pre-amp and the volume control. So it gives it a little tube coloring. And you can plug your amp (or amp/sub) right up to that. Then there is a switch on the front which lets you select between the various input devices.

You need to upgrade those Sol Republics. biggrin.gif

I get it now!!! Plug the record player into tube magic, tube magic to Emotiva, Emotiva to speakers. What will the sound do with this?

I bought those awful headphones for a trip to Philly for work, listened to them for a bit, got bass'ed out and have never listened to them again.
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

Is there an easier way? Like something I can attach to the Amp that would make it send signal to the sub?

Easiest way is to find a sub that has both speaker level inputs and outputs. Then you run the speaker cables to the sub, and then from the sub to the speakers. Unfortunately, it's harder to find that configuration in better quality subs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valtyr View Post

I get it now!!! Plug the record player into tube magic, tube magic to Emotiva, Emotiva to speakers. What will the sound do with this?

Yep. And you could even plug in a little netbook computer via usb and have a digital jukebox to use in the room.

The tube pre-amp would color the sound a little. You can also change out the tubes for some slightly different coloring effects, although I am suspicious when people describe those changes as being dramatic.
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Easiest way is to find a sub that has both speaker level inputs and outputs. Then you run the speaker cables to the sub, and then from the sub to the speakers. Unfortunately, it's harder to find that configuration in better quality subs.

This has been something I have been searching for. Most subs that have high pass filters, generally dont have speaker level connections. I have been looking for a sub with a high pass filter to work well with my NHT SuperZero 2.0s, and I think I have settled on the NHT Super 8. It has a 100Hz high pass filter and will take some of the load off my t-amp.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post

It has a 100Hz high pass filter and will take some of the load off my t-amp.
Beware of this. Speaker level high pass filters in plate amps are cheap electrolytic caps. They have only 6dB slope filtering, and less than pristine sonic characteristics. Worse, their actual high pass frequency depends of the load impedance. A 100Hz filter for an 8 ohm load will be a 200Hz filter with a 4 ohm load, and a 100Hz filter for a 4 ohm load will be a 50Hz filter with an 8 ohm load. They're better than nothing, but barely. As for taking the load off the t-amp, also just barely. The difference between a passive filter in the plate amp versus a real electronic crossover of an AVR is literally like night and day.
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

Beware of this. Speaker level high pass filters in plate amps are cheap electrolytic caps. They have only 6dB slope filtering, and less than pristine sonic characteristics. Worse, their actual high pass frequency depends of the load impedance. A 100Hz filter for an 8 ohm load will be a 200Hz filter with a 4 ohm load, and a 100Hz filter for a 4 ohm load will be a 50Hz filter with an 8 ohm load. They're better than nothing, but barely. As for taking the load off the t-amp, also just barely. The difference between a passive filter in the plate amp versus a real electronic crossover of an AVR is literally like night and day.

So do you think there will be much difference between the high pass filter on the Super 8, and a regular crossover on a different sub? It was made to go with the 2.0s, so I figured it would be a good choice, but if I can get more sub for my money by not needing a high pass filter, that would be great.
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

Beware of this. Speaker level high pass filters in plate amps are cheap electrolytic caps. They have only 6dB slope filtering, and less than pristine sonic characteristics. Worse, their actual high pass frequency depends of the load impedance. A 100Hz filter for an 8 ohm load will be a 200Hz filter with a 4 ohm load, and a 100Hz filter for a 4 ohm load will be a 50Hz filter with an 8 ohm load. They're better than nothing, but barely. As for taking the load off the t-amp, also just barely. The difference between a passive filter in the plate amp versus a real electronic crossover of an AVR is literally like night and day.

Thanks, Bill. That explains why that feature is not in higher quality subs smile.gif
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transmaniacon View Post

So do you think there will be much difference between the high pass filter on the Super 8, and a regular crossover on a different sub? It was made to go with the 2.0s, so I figured it would be a good choice, but if I can get more sub for my money by not needing a high pass filter, that would be great.

Just curious. Is it the cost that's preventing you from going with the SB-1000, or the fact that you would have to use your computer to control the volume with that kind of setup?

Ooppss. Just realized you have the t-amp with the built digital input. Nevermind smile.gif
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Just curious. Is it the cost that's preventing you from going with the SB-1000, or the fact that you would have to use your computer to control the volume with that kind of setup?

Ooppss. Just realized you have the t-amp with the built digital input. Nevermind smile.gif

Yeah I need something with speaker level connections, but also I am trying to stay on a budget. One thing I considered is upgrading the sub in my living room and sticking the F-12 next to the desk rolleyes.gif
post #27 of 28
The SuperZeros have a pretty steep roll off starting high up:

http://www.hometheater.com/content/nht-superzero-20-speaker-system-ht-labs-measures
http://www.stereophile.com/content/nht-superzero-loudspeaker-sw2-subwoofer-measurements (older non-2.0s)

I would think just a regular sub and it's low pass filter matched to the natural roll off would still be a massive improvement. Although I would wonder if the HSU STF-1 or Outlaw M8 might not be the better sub over the NHT. Hard to know smile.gif
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

The SuperZeros have a pretty steep roll off starting high up:

http://www.hometheater.com/content/nht-superzero-20-speaker-system-ht-labs-measures
http://www.stereophile.com/content/nht-superzero-loudspeaker-sw2-subwoofer-measurements (older non-2.0s)

I would think just a regular sub and it's low pass filter matched to the natural roll off would still be a massive improvement. Although I would wonder if the HSU STF-1 or Outlaw M8 might not be the better sub over the NHT. Hard to know smile.gif

Yeah I was leaning towards the Super 8 for the high-pass filter, but with Bill's comment, I think I could get a lot more sub for the money... Those are probably the two subs on my short list, though I would lean towards the M8 B-stock with free shipping, making it almost $100 cheaper.
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  • Comparison: Cambridge Audio S30, Monitor Audio RX1, Paradigm Studio 20 V.3 (Pics/Videos inside)
AVS › AVS Forum › Audio › Speakers › Comparison: Cambridge Audio S30, Monitor Audio RX1, Paradigm Studio 20 V.3 (Pics/Videos inside)