I just completed a fun amateur audiophile project to replace my home theater receiver and front/rear speakers which involved auditioning several popular budget audiophile stand mount speakers in my listening/home theater room. My decision on which speakers to keep was based solely on pure direct two channel stereo music as that was my priority over home theater. All speakers selected for the shootout had a matching center since the plan was to buy the matching surrounds for whichever fronts I chose. This means I couldn’t audition the Definitive Technology Demand series since they didn’t have a matching center
KEF Q350 $650 (Edited: Mistakenly typed Q300 first)
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 $280
Elac Uni-Fi UB5 $399
Dali Oberon 1 $550
Pioneer Elite Andrew Jones SP-EBS73 $499
Polk Rti A3 $240
Wharfedale Diamond 225 $350
Monitor Audio 2 Bronze $499
My outgoing receiver was a 2012 Yamaha RX-v673 which is reviewed at whathifi.
My outgoing speakers were the 2002 Energy Connoisseur C-3 model which are reviewed at Soundstagenetwork.
My home theater room is a carpeted rectangular room with dimensions roughly 22 ft long x 13 ft wide x 12 ft ceiling. The corners of the room have foam bass traps and the dry wall is half inch double panel with acoustic glue between each panel all around. It’s a nicely damped space. Left and right Speakers were spaced 9 ft from my listening seat and toed in towards the sweet spot with 9 ft between them with about 15-18 inches from the rear or side wall. The back wall has 2 x 4 ft of acoustic foam behind the 75” TV. Stands are filled with sand and were setup so most tweeters were ear level when listening. I didn’t have time to burn in speakers for 100hours so everything was heard as they are out of the box. I figured the speakers entire demeanor wouldn’t change drastically and I had to return the speakers sooner better than later.
The new receiver I decided on after a similar shoot out was a Marantz SR5013. I chose this over several receivers which now that I think about it, is an entirely new post in itself lol. I will just say this, the Marantz definitely sounded better in my room with my Energy speakers than comparable Yamaha Aventage, Denon and Sony receivers when used in Pure Direct mode.
Music was all streamed in using Tidal master quality FLAC files using the receivers internal HEOS streaming functionality. I also used a Denon-DVD1910 over optical for CDs along with the Marantz’s Front load USB port with WAV files. The music genres used for comparisons were jazz like Diana Krall and Norah Jones, female vocalists like Sarah McLachlan and Kirsty Hawkshaw, lots of acoustic folk with guitars and vocals like Lou Rhodes, piano music from Hania Rani, soundtracks and classically inspired music by Max Richter, soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and some drum n bass and techno DJ music. I used some old Bass 305 subwoofer CDs as well to compare their bass output.
KEF Q350 - Everything sounded good. Silky. Refined. Sweet. Pleasing. These along with the Wharfedale’s were infinitely easy to listen to. They reminded me of each other but the KEFs seem to have more definition or clarity. They couldn’t match the Diamonds bass though. Ultimately they weren’t exciting enough with some of my favorites songs to keep them. The soundstage wasn’t as wide and tall as I was hoping. Vocals didn’t come out and touch me where I sit. My hair didn’t stand up. From reviews I was expecting a more holographic and enveloping sound. They also felt too laid back for my tastes in my room with my music. I tried propping them up higher since the tweeter is on the center of the woofer, but it didn’t sound noticeably different. They certainly looked amazing in my room in white. My wife wanted these the most just on design. I wanted these to win, bummer.
Elac Uni-Fi UB5 $399 - In my setup, these sounded dark, slow and dull. I don’t know why. I did not get past 3 of my favorite songs. Maybe they need more juice?
Dali Oberon 1 $550 - These simply couldn’t put out a comparable soundstage to my existing Energy’s so I passed on them after 3 songs. They sounded like smaller speakers and they were indeed the smallest. They had a nice sound signature but it sounded like the speakers made things a bit sweeter than they really are, it was a nice sound, but maybe not so natural? I could see these making any sort of music sound good, I probably should have compared the Zensor 3’s instead but I couldn’t find a pair and the Oberon 3’s did not review well on what hi-fi.
Pioneer Elite Andrew Jones SP-EBS73 $499 - After 3 songs I already preferred the Diamonds and KEFs to these so back in the box they went. They sounded better in my room than the Uni-Fi’s but overall they didn’t do anything to win me over past what I had heard already from the KEF or Diamonds. Or even my Energy’s for that matter.
Polk Rti A3 $240 - These shouldn’t have been in the comparison. They were quite bad. Almost immediate pass when compared to my old Energy’s. They looked good, and had nice low volume bass output but tonality to me was just so off on my first few listens.
Wharfedale Diamond 225 $350 - Amazing speakers. So easy to listen to. Very Impressive bass in my room. Possibly the best bass output along with the Monitor Audios. Not as clear as the KEFs in the kids and highs. More impact then the KEF. Not as sweet in the Vocals as the KEF but so very close. I tried them bi-amped also. I couldn’t hear a difference but was impressed with their overall value at $350 having features like that. If money is a factor, I would get these over the KEFs and enjoy a very similar sound. Overall, like the KEF, they weren’t as visceral or exciting on some tracks as I desired. More laidback. They look great in white. I was able to generate a bit of cabinet noise on loud piano based music. That was off putting. Only my old Energy’s had this cabinet resonance with the same song.
Monitor Audio 2 Bronze $499: I really wanted these to be contenders just based on looks and fit and finish. They have terrific bass extension but they are just too bright. Some of my favorite vocal tracks got shrill to my ears. I really liked the tone of some guitar music and piano music on these but not enough to get over the brightness. There was also less noticeable of a gap between quieter and louder moments on the same songs when hearing these speakers which made them feel less dynamic.
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 $280: Overall, these sounded the best in my room as much as I didn’t want them too. They were almost the cheapest of the bunch and I didn’t particular care for the way they looked. Compared to the white Diamonds or white KEFs they are so passable on looks. But their sound continually raised hairs on my neck. My ears heard a soundstage up near my ceiling that wasn’t heard with any of the other speakers. I could hear sounds out to the left and right of the speakers and vocals were closer to me than with any of the other speakers. They were more forward and I liked it. Some songs almost produced a phantom rear sound effect. The KEF were sweeter but by a small degree that I enjoyed but I wanted the wider, taller, soundstage, immediacy, attack, presence, excitement and impact more. These sounded the biggest of all the speakers in the group and they might be dimensionally. They were the most revealing in my setup. I heard things I wasn’t hearing on the other speakers. I don’t have to turn these up as loud to get the same perceived emotion out of a vocal. At moments, i heard things I didn’t pick up on with the other speakers that I didn’t particularly like. But it was just the recording. These are very true and honest. No added sweetener or calming of potentially rough sounds. If it’s on the recording I am going to hear it. At times, I can feel a bit of fatigue that didn’t occur with the KEFs nor the Diamonds, but overall I prefer it and it feels like it would be live. The quick rise and fall of quiet sounds and loud sounds is addicting, and how quickly the attack feels is exciting.
Well there you have it, I just received the matching Elac center, front Atmos module and rear surrounds to match the mains. I am excited to get them plugged in along with my HSU VTF-15 sub
Thanks for reading my first post. If I can answer any questions let me know.
P.S the UPS man does not like me haha