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.
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: