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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!