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post #1 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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HTD Level 3 Bookshelf Review 2015

Hello and Welcome!

I recently caught my first upgrade bug - probably the first of many - and purchased HTD Level 3 speakers and their matching stands. This is also my first speaker review so do not expect keen organization and optimal descriptive words and characteristics. I'm not sure how else to post pictures other than dragging and dropping into the File Upload so that is where my pictures will be located which were taking by my LG G2. No fancy equipment. No SPL meters or high dollar camera. An entry level review for an entry level speaker. Lets get started:

I want to introduce myself, my background in audio and why I chose HTD but I will move that paragraph to the very bottom. You clicked on the thread for a review, so that is the best way I know how to start.

For this review I decided to see how these speakers live up to their $350/pair (selected finish) price and matching $240 center and $140 wooden stands.

Features

The Level 3 Bookshelf is a 2-way speaker which features a Kapton ribbon tweeter and a 6.5" Mid-Range with FCD Cone. This is a front ported speaker which makes placing all the easier when combined with stands or even bookshelves and cabinets.

The cabinets I ordered are the limited Macassar Ebony finish. Which is honestly breathtaking. This isn't some wood wrap, these are solid, heavy, and beautiful eye catchers with the grill on or off. The price difference is so minimal that I left the price as so. These bookshelf speakers are just under a massive 20 pounds a piece and almost 16 inches tall.

HTD advertises a frequency response of 47hz - 40khz for this Level 3 bookshelf. It has a maximum power handling of 120 watts with 8ohms impedance and a sensitivity of 88dB.
A nice touch, but possibly not necessary, is the option for bi-amping/bi-wiring. Regardless, these binding posts are solid and elegant. They accept banana plugs, bare wire, and the post cap will not come off its threads if unscrewed, which is also nice because you don't have to worry about loosing those threaded caps.

Set-Up

The Level 3s arrived strongly packed in its intended, mint condition. They came double boxed, doubled foam padded, and a protective black sleeve over the cabinet. The outer box was a typical shipping box while the inner box was thick and almost un-marked. The grills come installed and they are not magnetic, which for the price seems standard, but extremely hassle free taking them on or off. I also want to add these came shipped FedEx, which I think is standard.

I used a Denon X4000 receiver which I also unboxed a few days earlier, but never touched. For my review, I set my receiver to pure sound mode and listened to mostly 3.0 and some 3.1 configurations. I used 12AWG Monoprice speaker wire with closed screw banana plugs which the speakers accept smoothly. My source was solely my ps3.

I don't have exact measurements on how close to my wall I placed them. But if you turn your attention to the blurry pictures, it displays my listening area in a 13x13x8ft high bedroom (side note: I also upgraded TVs, entertainment center, cables and wires. So it looks rather plain ). My listening position is about 9.5 ft away on a queen bed. The speaker stands are a fixed 28" height and place slightly towed in.

For 3.1 testing, I used an Outlaw LFM-1 Plus simply because these are bookshelves and perform optimally with a subwoofer. Most of my music preferences easily scares below the 47hz range of the bookshelves. So a subwoofer is a huge must with these.

I compared these speakers to the budget friendly Pioneer FS52s and matching center designed by Andrew Jones. This might not be the most equal comparison being that the Pioneers and HTDs are at a different price point, but these were my previous speakers and I wanted to make sure I could see results.... Or not see them (DUN DUN - thats from Law and Order btw.)

One should note that the Pioneers are towers and do not require stands, less sensitive, but can "handle" a little more power. But while each speaker is crossed over at 80hz and using a subwoofer, it evens the playing field slightly.

Performance

The HTD Level 3 speakers are lively and dynamic bookshelves to say the least. It was nice to plug and play these speakers and be able to watch a simple comedy movie and low intensity music and not have to have that crutch of a subwoofer. They image very well and have decent midrange, though I think HTD tried to take the pros of both a woofer and a mid-range driver and combine them into one, there will always be cons - the bottom end of these speakers is surprisingly fantastic and sound very clean and smooth. I actually enjoyed the low end of the Level 3s compared to the FS52s. The midrange is very present and actually great with a single driver, but with the triple 5 ¼" woofers of the Pioneer FS52s, they were out matched.

In my listening space, the x4000 provided plenty of power to the speakers and the Level 3s accepted that power perfectly. The bottom end of these speakers have surprising sound levels and actually, very clean. They handled turning up the volume with ease and sounded even more beautiful. I kept turning up the volume, never too much, but enough to where I always was secretly trying to find some type of unbalance or fault in supplying too much power and was unsuccessful.

I fell in love with 2 channel listening with a subwoofer. Extending the bottom end made these speaker shine even brighter. When using these bookshelves in 2.0/3.0/.1 configurations, they continue to deliver and haven't disappointed yet. It was always easy to visualize instruments and hear them being played in front of you.

Listening

The HTD Level 3 Bookshelves and center played a very interesting in contrast to the Pioneers. After switching back and forth a few times you could tell the difference. Soon the Pioneers became hazy. After continuing to listen to the Level 3s, I could pick up a few new notes in the music I couldn't pick up before. The Pioneers are still fantastic speakers, I couldn't have been happier with them. They easily surpassed with bass output, that is expected considering they are a tower speaker. But directly comparing center channels, the Level 3s just out performed. But considering the Level 3 is over twice as expensive (about $100 compared to $220 with the basic black finish on the Level 3) the Pioneer center finished with his head held up high.

I listen to a vast variety of music. A quick history, I was born in 1995, but I love 80s music. My first song that I tested and which I will always test any new speaker with is Japanese Wallpaper - Waves. In it self, the song will bring out the best in any speaker. When I listened to this track in stereo mode, no EQ, just pure direct, all I could do was close my eyes and slowly nod my head. These speakers tore through this song beautifully and the mid-range when the vocals start was seemingly perfect. The imaging between the 2 speakers indescribable (inset bias ). Though it actually is describable, it's difficult to tell that kind of story. Interestingly enough, when compared to using an EQ provided by Audyssey's X32, I leaned toward the bass of pure direct mode and the voice of Audyssey.

My next track was Santana's Greatest Hits CD. Sorry, but I didn't buy these speakers to listen to elevator music. The first 5 tracks on the CD is as follows:

1. Jingo
2. Evil Ways
3. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
4. Oye Como Va
5. Samba Pa Ti

The CD itself features 16 total tracks.
It was great to actually pinpoint the abundance of musical instruments that the group uses and follow them through the entire song. The Level 3s granted me to do so. The drums and guitar solos I could almost hear them being played in the same room. It just brought a smile to my face. The Level 3s were a bit bright with the higher midrange frequencies but after I warmed up to them, I began to accept it gladly. Music became lively.

Adding a subwoofer to the mix really "shook" things up . I transition from the great band of Santana to chillstep and dubstep. One of my favorite artists is Blackmill. His songs "Miracle", "The Light" and "Fortune Soul" just put me in a completely different state of mind. Listening to his tracks on these speakers was astounding. The clarity was just THERE. It was in your face how clean these tracks can really be. For the price, I think definitely got my money's worth.

I am still continuing to listen to other music and I probably jumped writing the review, but I felt compelled to tell others how much I am enjoying these.

Conclusion

Overall, these speakers are fantastic. For me personally, I am about presentation as well. Meaning the beauty of the cabinet and driver. I do think the price of bookshelf and center was affected by both. These speakers are truly something you could catch yourself staring at which is a huge +1 in my book. How they were able to provide such beautiful speaker and a great sounding one is a mystery to be considering the price.

I never managed to stress the speakers with loud volume, but that was also me not wanting to damage my personal "new" equipment. So I did proceed cautiously when turning up the volume. But "in the real world, where space matters, aesthetics matter, and preserving your hearing also matters", the HTD Level 3 Bookshelves get plenty loud in any normal-sized room.

Thank you for reading!

I will add the speaker review and a summary of me personally soon. After writing this and thinking about it, I should keep this major topic as a single thread.

The pictures are not in any order. I noticed that after I submitted the post. I'm assuming it was how fast each on loaded or failed to load. So enjoy the "slide show" I also included a few more pictures of the unboxing and room setup process. Also it contains a few room upgrades which I've been fighting to finish before the work week starts again. The last picture is basically the "before". That picture features the Pioneer Andrew Jones series front stage with an Emerson 32" TV and a Dayton Audio SUB1000

I really hope you enjoyed this review as much as I did writing it. A big, personal, thank you.
Please comment back. I love seeing feedback. I plan on writing more reviews as I get more speakers. So, the speakers will improve, the reviews will also improve. But, for the time being - Entry level speakers and Entry level review! Thanks again!
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Last edited by bgtighe23; 01-24-2015 at 09:26 AM. Reason: Re-reading after I posted and finding more grammar error :P
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post #2 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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For some reason, it didn't upload some pictures. So here is a few more.
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post #3 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 04:02 PM
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Thanks for sharing- great to hear as I'm anticipating the delivery and hoping for that same smile to come across my face!
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post #4 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 04:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for sharing- great to hear as I'm anticipating the delivery and hoping for that same smile to come across my face!
I hope you will also. What speakers did you order? Finish? What speakers are you upgrading from?
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post #5 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by bgtighe23 View Post
I hope you will also. What speakers did you order? Finish? What speakers are you upgrading from?
The level 3's as well- 2 sets of bookshelves and a center for a 5.1 system in the Macassar ebony. Upgrading from some OLD mirage series which are long over due. Your review comment of your prior speakers sounding "muffled" in comparison (or something like that- forgive me for being lazy and not going back to look- haha) describes exactly what I'm hoping- and now expecting, to determine as well. Thanks again for taking the time to put down your experience. Btw- great music choices! Lol

My missus is dreading the 42 minutes of "thick as a brick" that I'm planning to listen to...
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post #6 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by scape111 View Post
The level 3's as well- 2 sets of bookshelves and a center for a 5.1 system in the Macassar ebony. Upgrading from some OLD mirage series which are long over due. Your review comment of your prior speakers sounding "muffled" in comparison (or something like that- forgive me for being lazy and not going back to look- haha) describes exactly what I'm hoping- and now expecting, to determine as well. Thanks again for taking the time to put down your experience. Btw- great music choices! Lol

My missus is dreading the 42 minutes of "thick as a brick" that I'm planning to listen to...
I don't think you will be disappointed. Post some pics and a few sentences of your speakers when you get them!

How are you going to mount/place the bookshelves? The entertainment center I currently have is 72" long. A big long, but I like the room. My original plan was to put my bookshelves on the entertainment center itself. But I didn't like the look or the flat, close together front stage. I'm glad I kept the stands.
I might get a smaller 60" entertainment center and see how it compares. It frees up room for a 2nd sub so that might be my next upgrade down the road (after I order and review another pair of bookshelves)

I usually put my receiver on top with all the constant use on the back..replacing hdmi cables, etc.
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post #7 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 05:20 PM
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Will do! Center channel will be going on top of our entertainment center- fronts mounted on the wall and directed down a bit. Rears will go on a built in we have, and sit just above ear level so actually pretty decent positioning. It's our living room and not/can't be set up to the perfect ideal situation... And with two dogs and a two year old- we're sticking to wall mounts and out of reach- lol.

I'll be playing with the side by side comparison as well, so hopeful to take the time and get a true sense and evaluation as you did.
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post #8 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 06:39 PM - Thread Starter
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What type of mounts will you be using for the mains?
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post #9 of 70 Old 01-10-2015, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Will do! Center channel will be going on top of our entertainment center- fronts mounted on the wall and directed down a bit. Rears will go on a built in we have, and sit just above ear level so actually pretty decent positioning. It's our living room and not/can't be set up to the perfect ideal situation... And with two dogs and a two year old- we're sticking to wall mounts and out of reach- lol.

I'll be playing with the side by side comparison as well, so hopeful to take the time and get a true sense and evaluation as you did.
Also, what subwoofer do you have? I'm curious about that also
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post #10 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 12:43 AM
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Congratulations and thank you for sharing with us your detailed and informative review! I really enjoyed reading it and seeing how the Level THREEs compared to your other speakers. I also enjoyed the pictures you provided. You did a fantastic job!

Music area: Magnepan 3.6, McIntosh MC2205 amp & C48 preamp, SVS SB13-Ultra, Oppo BDP 95, dbx 3BX, and assorted equipment.
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Thanks!

Any reason you would NOT go with a HTD sub if you were looking at the complete package as I am?
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post #12 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 07:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks!

Any reason you would NOT go with a HTD sub if you were looking at the complete package as I am?
It's quite an accomplishment in it self if a company can manufacture great speakers, but also an equally great subwoofer. It's why we love SVS. It's also why many people don't advise Klipsch subwoofers. The Level 3 subwoofer is priced at $479 in the matching Macassar Ebony finish, which is actually slightly more expensive than SVS's PB1000 priced at $499 because of shipping.

That's my personal reason to why I probably won't buy HTD's Level 3 subwoofer. SVS offers a better warranty, home trial, and free shipping. The PB1000 also features a more powerful amp, which makes the subwoofer "powered" while the Level 3 is passive but includes an external amp. PB1000 also digs deeper, is also slightly smaller and posts accurate SPL measurements on their website which makes the Level 3 somewhat a guessing game. I know the popularity of SVS adds some bias to my decision, but if I choose to send the Level 3 back, I'm out shipping cost. In reality, a comparison could be done, but right off the bat SVS seems a more logical subwoofer decision.
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Congratulations and thank you for sharing with us your detailed and informative review! I really enjoyed reading it and seeing how the Level THREEs compared to your other speakers. I also enjoyed the pictures you provided. You did a fantastic job!
Thank you for your words of encouragement!
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post #14 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 10:31 AM
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That's my personal reason to why I probably won't buy HTD's Level 3 subwoofer. SVS offers a better warranty, home trial, and free shipping. The PB1000 also features a more powerful amp, which makes the subwoofer "powered" while the Level 3 is passive but includes an external amp. PB1000 also digs deeper, is also slightly smaller and posts accurate SPL measurements on their website which makes the Level 3 somewhat a guessing game. I know the popularity of SVS adds some bias to my decision, but if I choose to send the Level 3 back, I'm out shipping cost. In reality, a comparison could be done, but right off the bat SVS seems a more logical subwoofer decision.
The Level 3 sub would not be weak because one might consider it passive - it comes with
its own amp that is removable and can be placed on a rack.

It is not an amp by itself that would make a sub play loud - there is also the sensitivity
of the woofer - and all built amps can not be considered the same.

Now, how much lower does the SVS sub go down compared to the Level Three sub?

HTD also offers an in home trial period, and will pay return shipping for first time buyers
for one subwoofer.
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post #15 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 10:36 AM
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Any reason you would NOT go with a HTD sub if you were looking at the complete package as I am?
Nothing wrong with testing the sub in home - with 10% off, and you do get a trial period.

The sub should not run or faint, out of fear of being a wimp.

It comes down to your perception of bass, and if it is good enough to serve your bass needs,
or requirements.

Not saying it should be first on your list - however, nothing wrong with checking it out, you
might be surprised.

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The Level 3 sub would not be weak because one might consider it passive - it comes with
its own amp that is removable and can be placed on a rack.

It is not an amp by itself that would make a sub play loud - there is also the sensitivity
of the woofer - and all built amps can not be considered the same.

Now, how much lower does the SVS sub go down compared to the Level Three sub?

HTD also offers an in home trial period, and will pay return shipping for first time buyers
for one subwoofer.
You pay original shipping, they pay return shipping. What makes it nice, it is flat rate shipping though.

By no means do I mean the sub is weak apologies if I came across like that

I could place the sub amp in my entertainment center, but I personally prefer one build on. It was just something to take note of.
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I could place the sub amp in my entertainment center, but I personally prefer one build on. It was just something to take note of.
True, however for those who are curious - there is a place cut away on the sub
for the amp to rest in - and not have to be moved or placed somewhere else.

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post #18 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 04:02 PM
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OP - Thanks for your short but prompt review on the HTD L3 books and center.
The new ebony does look very nice and especially @ that price range.

I can tell you I use to own the L2 HTD books and center and it was really a nice combo for small rooms. I can only imagine how much nicer sounding the L3's are
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post #19 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 04:21 PM
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Nice review and it's great to see a young person getting into this hobby.

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post #20 of 70 Old 01-11-2015, 10:05 PM
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HTD makes excellent speakers, but their subs aren't the best. The price isn't bad, but you will have to expend more to get a better sub. However, this will depend on the rooms size. The Leve 3 HTD sub should be good for small to medium size rooms.
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post #21 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Nice review and it's great to see a young person getting into this hobby.
Thank you! i'm hoping to write another review of the AA bookshelves by Dennis Murphy (philharmonic) in the next few weeks. I moved the FS52s (Pioneer towers) to surrounds and they do quite well, but not optimal because of space. Little bookshelves are better off on my nightstands. So, when they pioneers sell, I will order the AA bookshelves.

I really want to compare those two speakers - the Level 3 and AA bookshelves. You're taking some pretty big names in speaker design (Andrew Jones and Dennis Murphy) and outputting what seems to be - a brilliant little speaker. I wish I had EmpTeks R5Bi and Chanes A1rx also, but maybe they will be down the road. Those seem to be the top of the line ID company budget bookshelves.

I'm also tempted to throw in SVS's Prime satellites. Being that shipping is free both ways, I won't loose a penny and will gain experience. They are similar in size and price as the AA bookshelves: Small cabinets, 4.5" woofer, rear ported, dome tweeter, and low sensitivity - on a basic scale anyways (being that the bookshelves are literally about 2 ft. away each from my LP I don't care about sensitivity).
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Send EMP/RBH an e-mail (Brian is likely who you'll talk to; nice guy!) and ask if they have any b-stock r5 bookshelves. They might have some. If you were closer I'd let you borrow mine. SVS with their free shipping both ways would be nice to have for a comparison also. Obviously the cost of shipping both ways is built into the price, but still. I'd bet they'd send you a pair if they knew you were comparing multiple speakers and posting pics/review/etc on AVS. I'd do the prime bookshelves instead of the sats though

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post #23 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 11:33 AM
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Nice review.

Why is your TV mounted up so high? I'd bet you would enjoy it much more at eye level.
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post #24 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 12:07 PM
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HTD level 3 speakers

Thanks for your review of the HTD level 3 speakers. I haven't listened to these yet but have recently auditioned EMP r5bi and SVS prime satellite speakers. I was impressed with both speakers...Would like to hear the HTD and Arx speakers also. Will be tough to beat the EMP I think. Awesome looking and the mid range is unreal for the price! The SVS prime sats are incredible too. I had three up front with Mirage Omni sats in rear. Blended perfectly together. It really pays off to try out several brands to hear what sounds the best in YOUR ROOM.
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post #25 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 12:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Nice review.

Why is your TV mounted up so high? I'd bet you would enjoy it much more at eye level.
Agreed, but this is in my bedroom and I lay down on my bed I am able to look straight at the TV (its angled down). If it was lower, I wouldn't be able to lay down, I would have to sit up. I had it both ways and preferred it mounted higher and angled down for my laying position.

If you take a look at my original picture with the towers and 32" TV, its on a stand. It was uncomfortable watching movies; stacking 3 or 4 pillows on the headboard to sit up properly.

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post #26 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ousooner2 View Post
Send EMP/RBH an e-mail (Brian is likely who you'll talk to; nice guy!) and ask if they have any b-stock r5 bookshelves. They might have some. If you were closer I'd let you borrow mine. SVS with their free shipping both ways would be nice to have for a comparison also. Obviously the cost of shipping both ways is built into the price, but still. I'd bet they'd send you a pair if they knew you were comparing multiple speakers and posting pics/review/etc on AVS. I'd do the prime bookshelves instead of the sats though
Thank you for allowing me to borrow them if I was closer. I considered the Prime Bookshelves, but at a total of $500, it puts price range a little high for the other speakers I've been taking a look at (less than $200 will get me those AA bookshelves from Dennis Murphy delivered at my front door). It would be nice to get a pair of any speaker to make a review and comparison. I would probably have to grab a better camera then also .

As with the Level 3s, I think the R5Bi's look beautiful as well. I would probably get the black finish though. The Macassar finish on the L3s and the Red of the R5Bis might not mesh well. But both finishes from EMP are very appealing.
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post #27 of 70 Old 01-12-2015, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by bgtighe23 View Post
(less than $200 will get me those AA bookshelves from Dennis Murphy delivered at my front door). It would be nice to get a pair of any speaker to make a review and comparison. I would probably have to grab a better camera then also .


Hey if you really want to go that extra mile, grab a pair of the unmodded BS22s from Best Buy to compare to the AA modified ones for us... you can always return the BS22s to BB if/when you find the AA ones a lot better and it'd give a pretty good perspective on what the DM changes do for it.
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post #28 of 70 Old 01-13-2015, 07:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey if you really want to go that extra mile, grab a pair of the unmodded BS22s from Best Buy to compare to the AA modified ones for us... you can always return the BS22s to BB if/when you find the AA ones a lot better and it'd give a pretty good perspective on what the DM changes do for it.
Well, I could compare them with the Pioneer center. But I don't think that extra mile is worth taking in my selfish opinion. The only purpose of me getting the AA bookshelves is because I need something other than the FS52 towers (for space reasons - other wise I would keep them) and a little better sound quality for surrounds.

It's a given that the modded speakers are better than the original. So I would rather aim at a speaker that will provide more benefit (such as the SVS satellites, or the other bookshelves mentioned) by me testing, comparing, and then reviewing. But if someone wants to mail me a pair, I will review and compare them
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post #29 of 70 Old 01-13-2015, 07:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgtighe23 View Post

It's a given that the modded speakers are better than the original. So I would rather aim at a speaker that will provide more benefit (such as the SVS satellites, or the other bookshelves mentioned) by me testing, comparing, and then reviewing. But if someone wants to mail me a pair, I will review and compare them

See, I don't know that is a given, overall.

Not that I think Dennis Murphy would change em for nothing- I'm sure they're better in at least some aspects.


It might be tons better for music, but not as good for HT.

Or vice versa.

or it might be better for classical but worse for rock

Or they might be better at everything, but only a little in some aspects but a lot in others.... (in which case the value of buying them versus the much lower price the stock ones can be had for on sale might or might not be worth it).

Or they might be better at everything by a lot.... (in which case the value of buying them over the stock speakers, even on sale, would definitely be worth it).




Just figured since you were gonna have a pair of the modded ones, and can effectively "borrow" a pair of stock ones for free from any best buy, it might be a useful comparison for folks.


(I'd love to see one for the AA towers vs the FS52s even moreso but I don't know anybody that even has the modded towers to suggest that to em- I don't expect anybody's gonna send me a pair to compare em).



I mean, your time, compare the stuff you're interested in, just wanted to give a suggestion of a comparison that might be pretty useful to other potential buyers.
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post #30 of 70 Old 01-13-2015, 08:08 AM
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It's a given that the modded speakers are better than the original.
One thing for sure, I know.

I know they can play all types of music - plus, they can handle home theater.
They are smooth and refined, with good detail and definition.

For fun - here is another subjective review - on the music side. I have also
found that if a speaker is good with music, it can also do Home Theater.
http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php...891#msg1357891

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