The Home Theater (HT) portion of the testing is now complete. My comments are below.
But before I get to that, I went back and reviewed all 4 sets of speakers using “Come Away With Me”. Zorba suggested that this track was a good way to identify sibilance. The cymbal brushes that are present throughout this song are in the frequency range that could cause such a problem. With the Chanes, the cymbal brushes were slightly distinct, but not an extremely well-defined SS-SS-SS, as Zorba described. The SVS and Ascend were similar, but slightly less distinct. I would describe the ML’s as somewhat more smeared. I would like to point out that none of the 4 speakers were significantly different from the others. Any differences were very minor to my untrained ear.
Home Theater Summary
I tested the speakers using the following scenes:
- Star Trek (2009) – The opening scene where George Kirk dies and Jim is born during the battle
- Star Wars Episode 3 – the battle over Coruscant
- Gladiator – The opening battle scene
- Avatar – Chapter 2 (the briefing on Pandora) and Chapter 7 (the jungle scene with “rhinos” and the “tiger”)
- Bloodline Season 3 Episode 10 – the scene at 37:00 where Sally is talking to Kevin and John
After running all four sets through their paces, I would rate them as follows (for HT only):
Chane and SVS (tie)
Identifying specific differences during the HT testing was much more difficult than during the music testing. I can see why those in the know recommend music testing first. It is much easier during the music testing to identify specific sonic characteristics. So much is going on in movie scenes (particularly action movies) that specific differences are hard to identify, and you are left with a more general impression. You can also use the size of your grin during some of the more intense scenes as a measure.
Martin Logan 35XT
The ML’s were just OK during the HT testing. As in the music testing, they certainly were not objectionable in any way, but they also did not excel, at least to my ear. Sometimes the dialog coming from the center speaker was somewhat subdued, and they were not as powerful as the SVS during action scenes. Perhaps if they were in the same price range as the Chane and Ascend, the perceived value would make them more attractive, but at this price point I just couldn’t see it. They were the first to be boxed up and sent home.
The SVS speakers made the best first impression of the bunch. They were especially great with the helicopter that opens Chapter 7 of Avatar, and with the battle scenes in Star Wars and Star Trek. They are very powerful, and in these scenes the dialog was clear and relatively distinct. I did notice some brightness during the scene from Gladiator, but it was not excessive. These speakers are definitely better for HT than for most music. They were just OK on the dialog in the scene from “Bloodline”. Sissy Spacek’s voice in this scene is very thin and raspy. I couldn’t even understand parts of it when I first watched on another TV in the house. That’s why I chose it for this test. The Ultras did better than my TV on this scene, but still left some parts difficult to hear.
The Chanes were nearly as good as the SVS Ultras all of the high energy scenes, and were significantly better on scenes involving dialog. I got the same feeling during some of the scenes as I got when I listened to “Sultans of Swing” in the music audition. Great imaging and a nice wide, well-defined stage. I didn’t break in the center speaker at the same time as the L/R, so when I started the HT test, the Chanes were a little disappointing. But they gradually became better, and finished neck and neck with the Ultras. The Chanes excelled at the dialog during the battle in Gladiator, and were also the best in the scene from Bloodline. Kirk’s commands during the Star Trek battle scene were also very good, as they were on the Ultras. Although it wasn’t part of the test, my first full volume experience with this new media room setup was the scene inside the pyramid from “X-men Apocalypse” with the Chanes and my SVS PB1000 sub. It brought a huge smile to my face.
Ascend Acoustics 340SE
The Ascends performed admirably during the HT test, and were well balanced, similar to the Chanes. As a matter of fact, these two speakers sound like they could be siblings. I had trouble finding many differences between the Ascends and Chanes. The Ascends were not quite so good on the difficult dialog scenes, and very close to the Chanes on the action scenes. Kirk’s voice at 7:05 was not particularly clear. The Ascends were slightly less powerful and dynamic than the SVS Ultras on the scenes from Avatar and Star Trek. They were however, very similar to the SVS and Chane on the battle scene from Star Wars.
In the end, I chose the Chane A2.4. For my ears and my room, they were the best choice. As mentioned previously, cost was not a factor in this audition process. I would have had no trouble spending the extra money for the MLs or the SVS speakers if the performance warranted. The Chanes provided the best overall performance, and really excelled with music and dialog. The dialog aspect was particularly important, as my wife and I watch a fair amount of dramatic TV, and sometime the dialog on these shows becomes hard to hear. But the Chanes are not lacking in the high energy action movie realm either. They are more than adequate in this regard. If that’s all I watched, the SVS Ultras might be the choice for me. They are very powerful and dynamic.
I don’t think you could go wrong with any of these four sets of speakers. However, the ML’s punched below their weight class. The Ascends seem to be very good speakers; they were just edged out by a slightly better speaker. And the SVS might be better for a dedicated theater room. However, for the price (and even twice the price) the Chanes are heard to beat, at least in this test.