Bookshelf Speaker Shootout
The new theater room is almost complete so now it is time to start having real fun!
I am auditioning bookshelves instead of towers because I unfortunately right now have to do things a little backward. My Paradigm Reference 100v2's will have to stay in service along with the matching center. I just don't have the budget to replace the front 3. So, the bookshelves will be for the side and rear surrounds. My line of thinking is that if I like the bookshelves then certainly the towers will be even better still.
Of course I could have purchased several dozen different bookshelves but I decided to limit myself to 5 or 6 contenders, which will duke it out to see which ones stay. The chosen few in no particular order:
1. PSB Imagine XB
2. Chane A1.5
3. Ascend Sierra 1
4. Aperion Verus III
5. JBL Studio 530
6. Wharfdale Evo 4.1
I wanted to audition Emotiva but unfortunately their bookshelves are out of stock. I'm hoping they will be back in stock so as to add them into the fray. It was also heavily recommended that I listen to Elac but unfortunately they are also out of stock.
The methodology I'm starting with will be as such:
1. Run all speakers through a 72-hour break-in period. Is that necessary? Maybe or maybe not. Will it hurt anything doing it? Nope.
2. Arbitrarily pick 2 sets at a time to go head-to-head. Loser is returned. I will be listening without grills.
3. Listen to the same base playlist then expand from there depending on what I hear. So, for example, if I listen to John Rutter's Requiem and question the choral sound maybe I'll put in something from Chanticleer or King's Singers to investigate more. I'll outline the playlist in the next post, I'm still deciding.
4. Take copious notes along the way of course.
5. Level match using my trusty Radio Shack decibel meter.
6. Run a REW sweep for each speaker from the listening position. I have no experience with this but I do have a UMIK-1 and of course the software so I'll do my best. Great way to learn the basics!
7. Once I think I have a winner from each pairing I'll have my fiancee swap out speakers while I'm blindfolded to either confirm my decision or really confuse me. Or both. I'll also have her stand in front of the speakers while they are playing and have her put the grills on or off without me knowing whether they are indeed on or off, just to see if I can tell a difference.
8. Have a ton of fun!
1. One of my older PCs running FLAC audio
2. My old Integra 9.9 pre/pro
3. Bryston 9BST amp
4. Analysis Plus Oval 12 speaker cables
5. GLS XLR cables
6. Acme Audio power cable to the amp. With a blue extension cord. The guest bedroom/bathroom suite is all on one breaker save for the whirlpool tub. I can't so much as make the music medium volume without tripping the breaker so I'm having to draw power from the adjacent bathroom.
Now, the room setup. This was painstakingly designed and executed as you can see in the image. The Integra is carefully leveled and placed on acoustic damping material, a medium-nap carpet. The Bryston amp is carefully raised off the acoustic material on custom scraps of 2x4. The speaker stands, as you can see, are custom pieces. I designed them over a duration of approximately 10 minutes using only choice custom materials. The cables are relatively neatly coiled in the back. The seating is a custom pained vintage dining room chair with a newly upgraded memory foam cushion. The umbrella tree in the right corner is about 15 years old and lost some leaves while moving it about. The picture immediately to the left of the computer is my mom's wedding picture. The other pieces of art you see there are from various years of Musikfest (if you are ever in the Bethlehem PA area when its happening, make sure to go!) My connection to the festival runs deep, but I digress.
In all seriousness, I'll position things a bit better but this is pretty much the idea. I'll purchase good speaker stands from either Monoprice or Sanus once the shootout is over.
I'll be listening without a sub. I know myself well enough that if the sub isn't positioned precisely where it should be then I'll be distracted and the decision making process will be significantly complicated and I'll have approximately zero fun with this process. I'll listen to them first full range to see what they can do but I'll primarily be listening to the speakers crossed over at 60. That way I'll have at least a little low end but shouldn't be taxing the woofers. I'm really just listening for timbre/SQ at this point. The subs will be twin Devastators along with my old Velodyne DD15, so I'm not at all concerned about the low end of the system.
What am I looking for? I'm looking for a neutral presentation that does not fatigue in the high end. This is the single most important attribute for me. I need a soundstage that is strong but one that doesn't collapse at high volume. In that regard I'm more concerned with width of the soundstage than I am with depth. I need good headroom. Aesthetics do not matter at all. I couldn't care less if a speaker looks like a dead cat folded up into a rectangle, it just needs to sound good. My WAF is zero. She doesn't care at all. I have zero bias toward any of these speakers. I haven't heard any of them and don't have experience with any. (I have heard PSB and JBL but it has been probably 20 years ago in a showroom so I don't count that as having any experience.)
Please post comments along the way. I've never done anything like this before so I'll appreciate any help you can offer.
So this ends the introduction. If you are so inclined, please join me on the journey!
Last edited by Gary Mertz; Today at 01:13 PM.