DIYSG Titan 615LX vs Boston Acoustics VR3
Update: The listening comparisons for both stereo music and home theater are complete. The speakers were set up as ABAB and then BABA, level matched with quick switching for stereo music, both without any EQ in pure direct and with EQ for the Titans, as the designers chimed in and stated the Titans weren't meant for stereo music listening without equalization. Both had a 40hz high pass with no subwoofers in play. For home theater, I could not do side by side direct comparisons with quick switching, I had to rely on acoustic memory - both speakers were EQ'd for home theater, the Bostons only up to 1khz, and the Titans all the way to 20khz to address a rolled off top end. Associated equipment is a Sony BDP 6700, Marantz 8012, Onkyo TX-NR3010, and Audyssey MultiEQ app.
For stereo music listening, without any EQ, the Bostons have a noticeable advantage in clarity and detail, as well as soundstage size (width and height) and imaging depth. The Titans, in comparison, sound like there is a blanket over the sound, dulling the upper frequency detail. The source of the sound is also much more easily locate-able, as the sound doesn't seem to be projecting any wider than maybe a foot from either outer edge of each speaker, and maybe a foot above and below the waveguide. They produce a solid center image, but it was locked in the same place (about 3' in front of the speakers and about 3' wide) whether it was vocals, instruments, or other sounds. They did not seem to have the ability to vary the location or depth of the center image. On certain songs this resulted in much less engagement than the Boston VR3s, while on others, like a vocal solo, it was less noticeable. The VR3s produced a soundstage width that extended well beyond the outer edges of the speakers to the extent that if you closed your eyes and estimated where the widest sounds were coming from, it would be at the side walls of the room. They projected taller than the Titans as well, though it was difficult to determine exactly how high they could go, as there wasn't a lot of vertical information in the recordings I chose. They also produced a very solid center image, but they had an ability to vary the depth and horizontal position of certain sounds vs others within the space between the two speakers. This resulted in more realism to the music as well as more engagement, especially with songs that had more complexity.
The Titans have a rolled off top end FR on axis in my room starting around 1khz and being down 5db by 10khz, and 10db down by 20khz. Comparatively, the Bostons measured very flat in my room on the top end with the exception of a 3-4db dip at 6-7khz that is inherent to the speaker. Feeling that this difference was contributing to some of the loss in detail on the Titans, and being encouraged to do so by the designers and thread followers, I EQ'd the Titans to resemble the top end of the Bostons. This improved the clarity of the Titans and brought the tonal qualities of the two speakers more in line. The VR3s still held the advantage in detailed reproduction, but the gap had shrunk, and without quick switching abilities, one may not have been able to pick up on the Bostons sounding clearer. Unfortunately, EQing the Titans did not improve their soundstage width, height, or ability to place sounds with more freedom between the two speakers. In addition to EQ, I also listened with a variety of toe in angle on the Titans while I maintained the face of the baffle of each VR3 perpendicular to my seat, as they were excelling in that position. Changing the toe in of the Titans allowed me to vary the depth of the center image approximately 2' - I ultimately preferred the original position with the center image approximately 3' out in front of the speakers.
In regards to dynamics or compression, neither speakers exhibited any differences that I could discern, both seemed to be breezing at my pink noise calibrated level of 85db from the test disc. I don't like to listen at extreme levels, but I feel I was hitting peaks well into the mid or high 90db range on aggressive passages at this level.
With the VR3s as mains in my home theater setup, which is 15.2.4, I have always felt that I had a very large and engrossing front soundstage, completely encompassing the entire front false screen wall with a 142" 2.35:1 screen. I play movies at -12 from reference and I never felt I was experiencing any strain on my speakers. I feel my speakers all blend into each other to create a very cohesive sound field, and while I can discern certain sound effects at certain specific placements within the room, I can't easily determine where the speakers are at. I hadn't given much thought to determine if this was because of the wides and front height speakers that add to the size and cohesiveness of the front soundstage or if it was more a function of the tweeter and mid of the Boston VR line having a big soundstage. When I swapped them out for the Titans, I learned that it was a function of the tweeter and mid of the Boston VR line having a big soundstage, as the Titans made the front soundstage feel noticeably smaller and less grandiose. I watched a variety of ~20 movie demo scenes as well as a full length movie, and the LCR of the Titans were almost distracting in how smaller of a soundstage they were able to create. Sound no longer covered the entire front false screen wall, and I could tell height-wise where the Titans were located behind the acoustically transparent screen. At -12, I was not able to discern any difference in dynamics or compression between the Titans and VR3s.
Conclusion: To my ears, the Bostons are the clearer, larger, and more realistic sounding speaker. They can place sounds more easily throughout the soundstage. The Titans are a warmer sounding speaker with a bit less detail, a narrower and shorter soundstage (likely due to the waveguide), and they lock the center image in one main position. Neither speaker ever sounded bad, and with EQ, the gap in clarity between the two can be shrunk, but unfortunately the soundstage size and imaging inflexibility of the Titans seems to be inherent to the design. It became clear to me after the testing that the Titan was designed first and foremost to be able to play loud. That seems to be the goal or the passion behind the speaker - play extremely loud without the need for major power without compressing or making any nasty sounds. That goal led to the decision of using a compression driver and waveguides to shrink dispersion and keep the sound focused in a narrow window to maximize spl. In doing so, I feel it has created drawbacks to the pure sound quality of the speaker. The VR3s seem designed to play louder more easily than most hi-fi offerings, but not at the expense of traditional hi-fi sound quality characteristics. This is reflected in the choice of a VR-HO (high output) dome tweeter, no drivers above the tweeter to prevent comb filtering, a natural frequency response that matches traditional hearing sensitivity curves very closely, and what I feel had to be a focus on big, wide sound dispersion.
Hopefully these listening impressions are of use to someone who may have been in my position a few months ago. I created the picture below to try and communicate the differences in soundstage size and center imaging abilities between the two sets of speakers visually. Blue for Titans and red for VR3s. The shapes by the speakers are the soundstage sizes and the ovals in the middle represent how much placement or movement is available to the center imaging.
Now that I believe I am safe from sub freezing temperatures, I went ahead and ordered some Titan 615LXs. I've heard only positive things about these speakers, including the designer, the compression driver, the SEOS waveguide, and the high excursion Emminence woofer. The waveguide around the mid is what makes this design more desirable to me than any of their other kits. I broke my own rule about never buying a speaker until listening to it first, but I can't seem to make it to any gtgs with Titans, the science makes sense, and all the reviews are glowing.
What is interesting to me is that few if any owners have detailed listening impressions vs known commercial offerings, either on their own or at gtgs. It's always Titans vs other DIYSG offerings, or in the rare chance they do compare to something commercial, it's very short.
Way back in 2005 when I graduated college and started my search for my main speakers, I spent a lot of time in a lot of audio shops comparing a lot of speakers, including bringing internet direct speakers with me. I fell in love with the Boston Acoustics VR3s for a variety of reasons, beating out all the competition, and I eventually expanded that lineup throughout the rest of my listening spaces with VR1s for the center, surrounds, and rears. Since 2005, I have attended several gtgs with DIY offerings as well as listened to much more hifi offerings in other audio shops, and never once was I tempted to change out my VR3s. The VR3s are only a midfi speaker, I think I paid $1000 for the pair, but their clarity and tonal balance never left me wanting.
The VR3s will be easily outmatched by the Titans in terms of displacement, sensitivity, and dynamics, but who's to say which speaker will have the better imaging, soundstage width, and clarity. I do not need a louder speaker, I want the best sound quality.
When I build the Titans, I'll bring the VR3s out from behind my AT screen and stagger the placement in front of the room. I'm already assembling a new comparison CD with numerous 1 minute clips from songs in anticipation.
For some background, here are the Boston Acoustics VR3s (not my image) and their FR is the purple line, approximately +/-3db from 50hz - 20khz
and the DIYSG Titan 615LX (not my image) and their FR, approximately +/-3b from 50hz -17khz:
I find dome tweeters and compression drivers to sound very different. Building SEOS12/TD12M and Statements I found two completely different speakers. Both sound great the former is very neutral sounding but dynamic. Reminds me of studio monitors but with better dynamics and they stomped on my Klipsch RB-75's. The latter has a lush stereo sound that's not nearly as flat or neutral IMO, but I like both for different applications.
Good luck with your build, it should be fun.
For what it's worth my dad and I built a pair of titans last year and he and I are big Boston Acoustics fans. He's owned a few of their towers as have I. I best I've heard and owned by far are the t1000-II & t1030 which are considered by many as some of their very best towers. He still owns both and we've compared them to the titans that he uses as his home theater system speakers.
If you are looking for better imaging, soundstage and clarity than you will be very pleased, I feel like they are much better. For movies there is no comparison at all. The titans are amazing and could compete with speakers in the 5k to 8k commercial range.
That being said we both feel like the top end on the titans is a bit too much and that awesome woofer is too lean. I personally eq'd them to have a downward tilt in my house boosting the bass from 100hz and down +5db and the top end from 1khz up -2db down.
Thanks for the feedback. You thought the bass was too lean for full range stereo listening, or crossed to a sub at 80hz? I have six 18 inch subs, so these will be crossed at 80hz.
Crossed at 80hz to subs will be just fine.
EQ basically negates any discussion about tonal balance and is needed for room EQ. Years ago, analog EQ did have negative effects on sound quality but today's crossovers have EQ capability and grafting subs to work in your room tailor the sound to your taste. Once I saw top brand speakers with great reviews that had EQ, I knew hating on EQ was all snake oil.
Now as far as dynamics, any wave guide speaker with controlled directivity will stomp conventional driver dynamics as well as sound stage and imaging. You are going to love the Titans but don't talk about their tonal balance in your room which will need EQ to counter what the room will do. Get a mini-DSP if they aren't voiced to your likes.
I run beryllium compression drivers on a SEOS wave guide and will never go back to conventional drivers again. It's pure silk with stunning dynamics.
I have Odyssey MultEQ XT32, but will not be using it for the comparison, as I wouldn't be able to quick switch that way. When these two sets of speakers go head to head, there will be no EQ, no subwoofers, and they will get signal to 60hz.
The Titans look to have a small upper bass bump from 70-150hz that I anticipate will stand out vs the VR3s, which are flatter overall.
I had (still have) a Boston Acoustics VR12 center channel. It has that Lynnfield dome tweeter. I love it. I replaced it (along with my AV123 RS750RS Left/Right) with HTM-12's (SEOS 15).
I'm not sure how the VR3's compare with the VR12 I was using but I'd imagine they would be similar.
I am better off with the HTM-12's; no question, but that BA center channel was a gem for sure. Very detailed and crisp without being harsh. The dynamics of the HTMs is what sets them apart. The soundstage is brought forward into the room. The HTMs are still extremely detailed without harshness.
I'm confident that you'll be pleasantly surprised by the 615's.
A more valid test is to EQ both to the room to eliminate room variables.
I hope your outcome is to your taste.
If neither speaker is EQ'd to the room for the comparison, and they are placed in a staggered orientation - AB AB - then the room effects are essentially a wash. The characteristics of each speaker will present themselves in a relative form at a minimum.
What you are saying is that essentially all speaker comparisons prior to 2005 were invalid, because processors didn't have built in EQ, and that's silly.
The Titans are in. Honestly I think the beefiness of the crossover is the most impressive component! I should get to assembling these this weekend.
Rather than use full songs, ive taken 1-2 minute excerpts from preferred songs so i can test a larger variety of conditions. I have two Sony BDP-6700s, two copies of the disc, and I think I will use my Onkyo TX-NR3010 to drive one pair of speakers and my Marantz SR8012 to drive the other pair. Ill just have to hit pause on one disc player and then play on the other. After listening to all the tracks i will swap which receiver powers which set of speakers to see if that makes any difference, as the Marantz should sound better on paper.
Ill post the songs a bit later.
Steve, I think you're really going to like the Titans. As has been mentioned, for HT applications they make an incredible front stage. They're dynamic, clean, and clear. Dialogue is fantastic. I was lucky enough to hear Jared's (@Jk7.2) incredible upgraded dual 15 Titan monsters at his get together early this year. They were basically effortless at very high volume, and took on challenging dialogue content with no trouble. They may sound a bit "bright" or "harsh" for some or with some types of material, but I'm sure that could be EQ'ed out if you find that. And they should shine in their area of strength as HT speakers. I know when I tested my HTM-12 with the SEOS 15 against my old Paradigm centre channel it absolutely smashed the Paradigm in terms of volume and clarity.
Im fine with bright - the Boston VR3s stood out as brighter or more top end detail than Paradigm Studios, Ascend 340s, and many others.
With regards to your speaker comparison, I believe Dr. Toole recommends testing a single speaker in mono rather than a stereo pair. As I'm sure you know, it's important to level match the speakers, especially when you have speakers as efficient as the Titans. I would try using pink noise and a basic SPL meter with your dual amp test rig. I'm excited to hear your listening impressions!
Thanks, yes I will definitely level match with a wideband pink noise wav file on the cds and an SPL meter before starting any of the listening tests. I dont think i will do too much single speaker/mono testing though - to really get a good feel for imaging and sound stage width, I am thinking it has to be a stereo play back
@SteveCallas I am interested in and am looking forward to your impressions.
I went from Boston Acoustic CR85's to SEOS12 DNA360 with AETD12M mids and love them both for different reasons. The Titan, or maybe a proper woofer under my current tops, are the upgrades that I have been considering.
I found the Titan's to be a little too bright for my tastes as well. They were fine for movies but for music they could be a bit (and I emphasize a bit) harsh for my ears. I ended up swapping out the capacitors in the tweeter path with Jantzen Supreme's and I added some dampening material to the backside of the wave guide and that helped a lot. The tweeters are still plenty detailed but to my ears they are smoother and have a bit better detail than stock. I did both changes at the same time so I can't speak to how much of an impact each change had on it's own. I later changed out the capacitors on the mid range with Jantzen Standards and that was a nice bump for music as well.
For anyone else looking to build any speakers around now, Menards looks to have all denim insulation on clearance, they said they are no longer going to carry it - in my store at least.
Test discs are complete, now I just have to finish assembling the Titans. For those interested, I edited 0:30 - 1:30 clips on average from these songs on either my favorite passages or the ones I thought would highlight characteristics between the two speakers the most easily. For a couple songs, I had to use the whole thing.
Shelf in the Room - Days of the New
One Night With Frank - Erin Boheme
Storm (Cello solo) - Yanni Live Concert Event
Storm (Violins) - Yanni Live Concert Event
Wound That Heals - Lily Chou Chou
Hang On Sloopy - McCoys
Rachmaninoff Prelude - I edited a couple different versions together to create the most dramatic, powerful version I've yet heard
Caribbean Queen - Billy Ocean
Pagliacci - Pavarotti
Wooly Bully - Sam the Sham
The Rain Must Fall (violin solo) - Yanni Live at El Morro
Green Hornet - Al Hirt
Cello Concerto E Minor Op 85: I - Ralph Kirshbaum
Ode to Humanity - Yanni Live at El Morro
On the Roof - Drifters
Habanera Carmen Bizette - not sure who this version is by
Fever - Ray Charles & Natalie Cole
O Mio Babbino Caro - Gianni Schicchi
All I Really Want - Alanis Morisette
Beethoven Symphony 9 Act 4 - Minnesota Symphony Orchestra
Get Out of My Dreams - Billy Ocean
O Fortuna - Carl Off - Y2K Album
Bulls on Parade - Rage Against the Machine
Con Te Partiro - Andrea Bocceli
Requiem Dies Irae - Y2k Album
Dance to the Music - Sly & The Family Stone
Flower of Carnage - Meiko Kaji
Hero Overture - Tan Dun
Eleanor Rigby - Beatles
Hey You - Pink Floyd
For All Seasons (trumpet, vocals, flute solo, hammered dulcimer solo) - Yanni Live Concert Event
For All Seasons (violin solo) - Yanni Live Concert Event
Leave Me Alone - Michael Jackson
Grand Duel - Louis Bacolov
Juno Reactor - Juno Reactor & Don Davis
Flight of the Cosmic Hippo - Bela Fleck
Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews Band
Green River - CCR
Into the Void - NIN
Standing In Motion / Acroyali - I edited two different versions together - Yanni
Lonely Shepherd - Zamfir
Madame Butterfly - Puccini - Montserrat Caballe
Along Comes Mary - The Association
Daniel's Triumph - Bill Conti
Drive - The Cars
Elastic Heart - Sia
Yellow Submarine - Beatles
Nightingale - Yanni Live El Morro
Misunderstood - The Corrs
Battle Without Honor or Humanity - Tomoyasu Hotei
Kokomo - Beach Boys
Hold My Hand - Hootie and The Blowfish
24k Magic - Bruno Mars
Prelude - Yanni Live Concert Event
Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
Montagues and Capulets - Prokofiev - unsure
You Learn - Alanis Morisette
Sloop John B - Beach Boys
Closing in on completion - i like to glue and screw everything, and i predrill all the screw holes, so i cant whip these or subs out like i see other people do.
I used to enjoy this, back when i had more free time. Now i hate it lol.
My preferred binding posts still havent arrived from China, and ill be out of the country for a week, so this comparison will have to wait a while longer. All the cabinets are lined with a comination of denim, fiberglass, and polyester. Ill be building an upper enclosure for the waveguides too.
Man, these binding posts are nice, i use them on my subwoofers, but i ordered them just about 2 months ago and still stuck in transit. Pretty much just waiting on them now - i may paint the rest of the cabs if they dont show up tomorrow.
Heres some build pics. The vertical brace in the waveguide cabinet is for if/when i put these behind the AT screen, as my subs sit high enough that the orientation will have the woofer cab resting upside down on top of the waveguide cab.
I used 12 gauge wiring, thats all i keep, and it fits everything, but crossover components reduce wire gauge to essentially a paperclip lol, what a waste.
I don't know why but I find them sexy as all hell! I wish I lived in the US purely for the cost of everything.....to expensive to import these unfortunately
Getting ready to battle. Moved the VR1 wides out of the way, pulled the VR3s out from behind the screen, semi centered a recliner, and brought the Titans in. ABAB arrangement with each pair approximately 12 feet apart and the listening seat pushed to 12 feet back.
The Titans are a big speaker, but not as imposing against the Bostons as I anticipated, the VR3s are a very deep speaker. Im toeing the Titans in to be directly on axis with my seat and making the Bostons ever so slightly off axis to the outsides of my ears, as thats how they sound best to me.
Still have some work to do dismantling the 11.2.4 system to be able to do this test, so impressions will come later. I will not be using the subwoofers, at least not at first.
Got in some quality time comparing tonight. Bostons on the Onkyo, Titans on the Marantz, both with 40hz crossover, Audyssey off, both in Pure Direct mode, both using two of the same Sony blu ray player each with its own copy of the test disc, both calibrated with a pink noise wav file on the test disc to 85db, which was a comfortable spirited volume i left it at for the session. Bostons must be a true 93db sensitive, because not much of a gap in master volume level between the units.
To my chagrin, each Sony remote would control both players at the same time, so they were always in sync. To switch speakers, i would mute one receiver and then unmute the other receiver. Got good at it, only takes a few seconds.
Lets get any biases out of the way. Ive had the Bostons since 2005 and up to this point havent heard any speakers i wanted to replace them with, so they have a soft spot with me and part of me wants them to win. On the other hand, i want something that can finally beat them and i just just dropped $2k on the Titans and put several hours into making them, so part of me wants them to win.
First song, Shelf in the Room, both speakers have excellent detail on the scratched strings. Titans put the vocals noticably more forward and focused. Bostons have the vocals back a few feet, a bit more diffused, but still solidly centered. Titans tone on the male vocals is slightly lower and throatier. The bostons engage me more on this song, the Titans lacking just a bit of oomph or energy when the full band is playing. Advantage Bostons on this one. Uh oh, not again im thinking, these Bostons came to play.
Next is One Night With Frank. Again, vocals noticeably more forward, slightly more detailed with Titans. I can feel the bass guitar notes through the floor with a bit more authority on the Titans. Bostons a little less focused on this intimate jazz vocal song, so advantage to Titans.
Storm Cello - the Titans have the tone of the cello a bit lower in frequency, and the vibration you feel from the strings of a cello in real life when you are close is more palpable from the Titans, possibly because the waveguides are focusing all the detail right towards me whereas the Bostons are a bit more diffuse. Big advantage Titans on this one, almost no contest.
Storm Violins - same story, the violins, harp, and trumpet have a warmer tone on the Titans and the detail is a bit more focused, which makes them seem more lifelike. Titans take this song.
Wound That Heals - pattern emerging of Titans having less room interaction on the top end, so the Bostons seem brighter with more sibilance, making the Titans win this one too. Could it be the Marantz vs Onkyo, or strictly waveguide compression driver vs dome tweeter? Gotta keep listening.
Hang on Sloopy - great song that sounds great on both. Titans with the more forward and focused vocals sounds better on this one too, so the Titans are starting to rack them up.
Prelude - the piano strings have that more palpable vibration feel like with the earlier cello song because the Titans arent as bright. Advantage Titans.
Caribbean Queen - the room interactions from the Bostons engage me more again on this one. This is one of my fave songs and i want to clap and dance with the Bostons, whereas the Titans presentation is bit dryer and not as infectious. Bostons the easy winner on this one.
Pagliacci - the fuller/warmer and more forward/focused vocals of the Titans makes this one sound better and more like like on the Titans, they take it.
Woolie Bully - fun song and no clear winner here, the recording must not have enough detail in it.
The Rain Must Fall - this clip is just the violin solo at the end, and wow isit good. The room interaction from the Bostons makes the crowd noise seem more real and the brighter tone favors this violin passage because it illicits more high frequency detail, and it can nearly bring you to tears. I do not get the same crowd effect or top end detail from the Titans on this one, they seem a bit less engaging again. Big advantage to Bostons.
Cello Concerto - ill make this easy, the Titans kick ass with anything cello! Titans win it.
Green Hornet - the room interaction or brightness hurts the Bostons again on this one, making it seem harsh in comparison to the Titans, so they take it.
On the Roof - the vocals being forward did not do this song favors on the Titans, it sounded unlike any other time ive heard this song, not nearly smooth or engaging enough. Boston sound on this song is my preference.
Thats where i stopped for the night. In general, the tone on the Titans is a bit warmer, vocals are more forward as in they are positioned further forward in the room, and on solos and vocals passages, they sound more detailed. The Bostons seem a bit brighter, have more room interaction, have vocals back behind the Titans, and seem to be more engaging when there are multiple instruments or sound sources all at once.
Nice write up Steve try some movie scenes to and see how you like them. I wish you lived closer so I could demo mine since I have the dual 15’s and dsp in added to the towers with the bottom end boosted up. It gives a nice warm sound when I play them.
The Titans seem setup to impress on initial listening, as many horns are. But will they fatigue on extended listening? Time will tell. You can always implement a downward slope to tame them.
I was thinking in bed last night about what it would take for each speaker to do better on the songs they lost on. For the Bostons, if they were on their own, the Audyssey app can fix the top end room interaction/brightness, giving them a richer tone, but i dont really want to use EQ for the comparison.
For the Titans, im not sure how to create more dispersed sound. The focused sound is a strength on the songs it won but also a weakness on the songs it lost. Maybe i will try pointing them slightly off axis of my main seat to the outsides.
Based on last night, i dont think the Titans are hurting for bass in my room. When i ran the Audyssey app with the all Boston setup a few weeks ago, all of my speakers in the BEFORE measurement showed gain below 100hz on their own, even the VR1s. So im sure both the VR3s and Titan 15s have slightly boosted bass as is right now with no Audyssey on, and it doesnt sound lacking. When the time comes where i hook just the Titans up, the app will let me contour their FR to hearts content.
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