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post #1 of 13 Old 04-06-2020, 11:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Denon AVR-X4500H Main Speaker Pairing

After about 18 years with my former Onkyo receiver I upgraded to the Denon 4500 over the holidays and I've been very happy so far. I've been using the same Ascend CBM-170 (non SE versions) for the 5 ear level speakers and my Adire Audio Rava sub. I added 4 RSL C34E speakers in the ceiling for Atmos and I've been very happy with them.

That said, I've been doing A LOT more music listening since I got the Denon. I've really been loving the Heos high resolution streaming with Amazon and trials with Tidal, etc. The Denon has been blowing my mind upsampling 2 channel with DTS Neural X. I don't know exactly how it works, but it can really do some magical stuff rerouting signal to the 5.1.4 speakers imo. I did also pick up a Sony 800M2 multi-format source that brings SACD into the mix and gives me a player for the handful of old DVD-A discs that I have from back in the day.

The only thing now is that when I switch back to straight 2 channel I start feeling like I could really use an upgrade to my mains. I love what the Ascends can do with imaging/soundstage and they're excellent with vocals, etc. but I still feel like there is more detail that could be achieved even with my fairly meager system. I do like the more flat and neutral sound of the Ascends, but honestly these are the only speakers I've owned for nearly the last 20 years. I guess I'm going for more of a system that sounds better with acoustic performance recordings as a goal, but it has to pull home theater duty too.

So, I'm curious what suggestions might be made that will work with the Denon that are still in the budget category? I have a fairly small living room space - like 11'x13' with about 9' ceilings I think. I don't really need more volume. I can achieve more db than my neighborhood cares for already.

Magnepans for example might fit the budget, but might require more space for placement and more power than my receiver can deliver. I'm not sure if the KEF LS50 should be an option that I should consider. They might lean too bright for my taste idk. I've seen mention that they are pretty power hungry and I'm not sure if my receiver can deliver for them while pulling home theater duty. Maybe the Denon could drive them for 2 channel, but I've got 7 more speakers being driven when it's fully lit up in Atmos/DTS X.

I don't believe I am interested in horns like Klipsch, but I haven't listened to them to be honest that's just taken from the consensus of opinion that I've seen online that they may be better suited for a different sound than what I am looking for.

I've also noticed that the Triangle Borea BRO3 seem to get a lot of love from the Youtube reviewers, but that might just be clever marketing on the part of Triangle to get their product out to Youtube reviewers. Those seem to be the leading contender currently. I'm mildly concerned about the 90 watt max with the Denon 'rated' to 125 watts. My biggest concern would be during home theater duty if there was a spike of power to one of them unexpectedly while the receiver might obviously not provide 125 watts to all channels driven at the same time. Hopefully I would otherwise have a pretty good idea in 2 channel when they were reaching their limits.

I've also considered sticking with Ascend and possibly going with their CMT-340SE across the front or maybe their Sierra 1 that is on sale. The Ascends are pretty easy to drive and have great power handling, but I might already know mostly what to expect from them. What else should I be considering in the sub $1k range? I apologize for the lengthy post, but as I give it more consideration I'm realizing that there are a lot of specifics involved in finding something that can be fairly easily driven, not lose any ground in terms of soundstage/imaging, and hopefully gain some level of detail, but remain fairly neutral.



Thanks!

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post #2 of 13 Old 04-07-2020, 12:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd View Post
After about 18 years with my former Onkyo receiver I upgraded to the Denon 4500 over the holidays and I've been very happy so far. I've been using the same Ascend CBM-170 (non SE versions) for the 5 ear level speakers and my Adire Audio Rava sub. I added 4 RSL C34E speakers in the ceiling for Atmos and I've been very happy with them.

That said, I've been doing A LOT more music listening since I got the Denon. I've really been loving the Heos high resolution streaming with Amazon and trials with Tidal, etc. The Denon has been blowing my mind upsampling 2 channel with DTS Neural X. I don't know exactly how it works, but it can really do some magical stuff rerouting signal to the 5.4.1 speakers imo. I did also pick up a Sony 800M2 multi-format source that brings SACD into the mix and gives me a player for the handful of old DVD-A discs that I have from back in the day.

The only thing now is that when I switch back to straight 2 channel I start feeling like I could really use an upgrade to my mains. I love what the Ascends can do with imaging/soundstage and they're excellent with vocals, etc. but I still feel like there is more detail that could be achieved even with my fairly meager system. I do like the more flat and neutral sound of the Ascends, but honestly these are the only speakers I've owned for nearly the last 20 years. I guess I'm going for more of a system that sounds better with acoustic performance recordings as a goal, but it has to pull home theater duty too.

So, I'm curious what suggestions might be made that will work with the Denon that are still in the budget category? I have a fairly small living room space - like 11'x13' with about 9' ceilings I think. I don't really need more volume. I can achieve more db than my neighborhood cares for already.

Magnepans for example might fit the budget, but might require more space for placement and more power than my receiver can deliver. I'm not sure if the KEF LS50 should be an option that I should consider. They might lean too bright for my taste idk. I've seen mention that they are pretty power hungry and I'm not sure if my receiver can deliver for them while pulling home theater duty. Maybe the Denon could drive them for 2 channel, but I've got 7 more speakers being driven when it's fully lit up in Atmos/DTS X.

I don't believe I am interested in horns like Klipsch, but I haven't listened to them to be honest that's just taken from the consensus of opinion that I've seen online that they may be better suited for a different sound than what I am looking for.

I've also noticed that the Triangle Borea BRO3 seem to get a lot of love from the Youtube reviewers, but that might just be clever marketing on the part of Triangle to get their product out to Youtube reviewers. Those seem to be the leading contender currently. I'm mildly concerned about the 90 watt max with the Denon 'rated' to 125 watts. My biggest concern would be during home theater duty if there was a spike of power to one of them unexpectedly while the receiver might obviously not provide 125 watts to all channels driven at the same time. Hopefully I would otherwise have a pretty good idea in 2 channel when they were reaching their limits.

I've also considered sticking with Ascend and possibly going with their CMT-340SE across the front or maybe their Sierra 1 that is on sale. The Ascends are pretty easy to drive and have great power handling, but I might already know mostly what to expect from them. What else should I be considering in the sub $1k range? I apologize for the lengthy post, but as I give it more consideration I'm realizing that there are a lot of specifics involved in finding something that can be fairly easily driven, not lose any ground in terms of soundstage/imaging, and hopefully gain some level of detail, but remain fairly neutral.



Thanks!
Hi Fastfwd,

I have the same AV receiver and I used it for a while to power my speakers with its internal amp. I have Klipsch all over. I did listen to music a lot, as well as movies. I have a 7.2.4 setup (before adding more external amps I used just one Emotiva for the fronts and before that I had 5.2.4 all on internal). I find the Denon to have several options both for music and for movies, and they do work different. For example, right now I'm using only the mains for music, no subs but using the Audyssey calibration. You just go into the 2 channel options and select large without subwoofer. Since I have the Audyssey app, I then tamed the mains a bit because the bass was too boomy. Depending on what volumes you listen to, the Denon might suffice or not. Since the Klipsch are very sensitive it works well most of the time except with dynamics. The transient parts of music (in movies was more evident because it was powering all speakers) from low volumes to higher volumes was a bit empty. Moving to an external amp for the mains opened that a lot more. Especially on the movies as the Denon was no longer powering the mains and had more room to breath into the other speakers. Go with very high sensivity speakers at 8 ohm and the Denon can meet your expectations. If you ask it to drive less sensitive speakers and lower ohm... I think it struggles. This is much more evident in movies. You can crossover to the subs to take away that needed amp power and plae it in the subs and have more breathing room but it then requires a really good integration (mains+sub). If you achieve that then it will sound great and music (even movies depending on the volume) will have more dynamic. The Audyssey app sucks a bit as you need to do changes with your finger on the tablet or phone but you can still achieve good results for your listening preferences.
Choose the speakers wisely, if they are rated for, as an example, 100W but can peak at 300W, give them enough power to go to the peaks momentarily. You'll feel it.

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post #3 of 13 Old 04-07-2020, 05:11 AM
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Revel M16 bookshelves would be well under budget and offer exceptional sound quality for the price. Revel F35 towers would be just a little above budget with good pricing from a dealer, excellent sound quality, and higher capability for home theater. 90 dB sensitivity so not too power hungry. Amir from ASR was impressed with their output capability after he finished his objective testing.


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post #4 of 13 Old 04-07-2020, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd View Post
I've also considered sticking with Ascend and possibly going with their CMT-340SE across the front or maybe their Sierra 1 that is on sale. The Ascends are pretty easy to drive and have great power handling, but I might already know mostly what to expect from them. What else should I be considering in the sub $1k range? I apologize for the lengthy post, but as I give it more consideration I'm realizing that there are a lot of specifics involved in finding something that can be fairly easily driven, not lose any ground in terms of soundstage/imaging, and hopefully gain some level of detail, but remain fairly neutral.
As a former owner of the 170SE and 340SE I can tell you that the 340SE would just give you a much bigger and more "fun" sound due to the extra woofer and larger cabinet, though the 170SE is actually a little bit flatter/more neutral. However, if 2 channel music is the main area in which you want to improve, with a $1K budget I'd say either move up to the Sierra 1 if staying with Ascend (the Sierra 2 or 2EX would be the biggest step up but $500 over your budget) or try something with a planar (Chane) or AMT tweeter (Emotiva or Wharfedale Evo).

Of those 3 options, the Emotivas would be the best bang for your buck---you could get a pair of their T Zeros (assuming you're ok with towers) for a jaw-dropping $400/pr. Or the larger towers, the T1 ($700/pr) or T2 ($1K/pr). If you already have a good sub and are not shooting for super loud volumes, I'd say the T Zeros would be fine though. I used to have an LCR of the Emotiva B1 with C1 center and loved how much rich, satisfying detail it provided even at low/moderate volumes. Don't worry about the 4 ohm impedance unless you're aiming for reference volume levels.

Wharfedale Evo 4.1 or 4.2 would be worth considering if you want to make use of Crutchfield's sweet $10 flat rate return shipping policy, and they do have beautiful cabinets if aesthetics are important for you.

HTD Level 3 bookshelves (Kapton ribbon tweeter) might also be worth considering, given their free return shipping.
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Since you are open minded to used I know there is at least one pair of used Ascend Sierra 2's for sale on AVS at the moment.

I believe @jsc79 still has warranty left on his. $975 shipped.
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Originally Posted by derekmoore View Post
Since you are open minded to used I know there is at least one pair of used Ascend Sierra 2's for sale on AVS at the moment.

I believe @jsc79 still has warranty left on his. $975 shipped.
Hi Derek! Yes, I have a set of like new S2’s with USA made cabinets, natural finish. If anyone is interested feel free to PM me.
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Hi Derek! Yes, I have a set of like new S2’s with USA made cabinets, natural finish. If anyone is interested feel free to PM me.
I know. I keep my eyes on them still.

How are things for you?

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post #8 of 13 Old 04-10-2020, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Revel M16 bookshelves would be well under budget and offer exceptional sound quality for the price. Revel F35 towers would be just a little above budget with good pricing from a dealer, excellent sound quality, and higher capability for home theater. 90 dB sensitivity so not too power hungry. Amir from ASR was impressed with their output capability after he finished his objective testing.


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Do you think the Denon 4500 can handle the M16? I mean, I'm sure it can handle them in strictly 2 channel, but I wonder what it might do with movies and/or upmixing music with all 9 channels driven?

I'm leaning toward these being my first choice, but stock is reported to be running low on Crutchfield. Are there any other known online retailers for these if Crutchfield runs out before I make a final decision? I'm not seeing them anywhere else.


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As a former owner of the 170SE and 340SE I can tell you that the 340SE would just give you a much bigger and more "fun" sound due to the extra woofer and larger cabinet, though the 170SE is actually a little bit flatter/more neutral. However, if 2 channel music is the main area in which you want to improve, with a $1K budget I'd say either move up to the Sierra 1 if staying with Ascend (the Sierra 2 or 2EX would be the biggest step up but $500 over your budget) or try something with a planar (Chane) or AMT tweeter (Emotiva or Wharfedale Evo).
First, thanks for the direct comparison. I actually love my Ascends. I haven't owned anything higher end than these, but they amaze me with how they sound for so little money. I had to consider the 340SE even if just to maintain some sort of cohesive sound at ear level.

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Of those 3 options, the Emotivas would be the best bang for your buck---you could get a pair of their T Zeros (assuming you're ok with towers) for a jaw-dropping $400/pr. Or the larger towers, the T1 ($700/pr) or T2 ($1K/pr). If you already have a good sub and are not shooting for super loud volumes, I'd say the T Zeros would be fine though. I used to have an LCR of the Emotiva B1 with C1 center and loved how much rich, satisfying detail it provided even at low/moderate volumes. Don't worry about the 4 ohm impedance unless you're aiming for reference volume levels.

Wharfedale Evo 4.1 or 4.2 would be worth considering if you want to make use of Crutchfield's sweet $10 flat rate return shipping policy, and they do have beautiful cabinets if aesthetics are important for you.

HTD Level 3 bookshelves (Kapton ribbon tweeter) might also be worth considering, given their free return shipping.
Thank you for the recommendations. I LOVE the look of those Wharfedales. I'm stunned that you can get something in this price range that look that nice. One issue is how big they are and trying to find stands that they would fit on that wouldn't make me a nervous wreck that they were going to tip over constantly. One of the speakers has to be precariously close to the front door. That was a plus for the Ascend 340SE that they actually make the stands that bolt to the speaker and you can put sand, etc. inside them to make them more stable. I'm also slightly concerned about a review that is critical of the female vocals possibly not being all that they can be.
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post #9 of 13 Old 04-10-2020, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd View Post
Do you think the Denon 4500 can handle the M16? I mean, I'm sure it can handle them in strictly 2 channel, but I wonder what it might do with movies and/or upmixing music with all 9 channels driven?

I'm leaning toward these being my first choice, but stock is reported to be running low on Crutchfield. Are there any other known online retailers for these if Crutchfield runs out before I make a final decision? I'm not seeing them anywhere else.
Yes I think the Denon will do fine as long as you are not expecting clean reference level output at 12'+, which no low sensitivity speaker will do with an AVR.

However, before I would consider bookshelf speakers that you have to then spend money on stands for, just get towers with the larger cabinet that serves as the stand, allows multiple woofers and greater SPL capability with lower distortion and better looks. Again, if the engineering and design excellence of Revel appeals to you, which translates directly to sound quality, I'd look at the F35's. They have a reasonable footprint that shouldn't over power your room. If it matters, the curved cabinets really give the appearance of being a much smaller speaker than they really are in terms of depth.

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post #10 of 13 Old 04-10-2020, 09:20 AM
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Thank you for the recommendations. I LOVE the look of those Wharfedales. I'm stunned that you can get something in this price range that look that nice. One issue is how big they are and trying to find stands that they would fit on that wouldn't make me a nervous wreck that they were going to tip over constantly. One of the speakers has to be precariously close to the front door. That was a plus for the Ascend 340SE that they actually make the stands that bolt to the speaker and you can put sand, etc. inside them to make them more stable. I'm also slightly concerned about a review that is critical of the female vocals possibly not being all that they can be.
Here's a pro review of the tower version of the Evos; same tweeter so I think the mids and highs would be similar, no mention of any female vocal issues:
https://www.whathifi.com/us/reviews/wharfedale-evo-44
The main drawback of the Wharfedales is that they are probably not as punchy/dynamic or aggressive as something like JBL, SVS Ultras, Klipsch RP, etc. if that is the sound signature you prefer; the Wharfedale house sound is usually described as being more "warm" and laid back, more suited for long hours of fatigue-free music listening than "wow, listen to those cymbal brushes!" type reactions.

I think those Ascend stands can also be used with non-Ascend speakers...you'd lose the ability to bolt a non-Ascend onto the stand, but using Blue Tack would probably negate that issue. I suspect the main advantage of having a physical bolting system is, if the whole thing topples over, the speaker is more likely to stay attached to the stand, but I don't think the damage would be any less. The bolting system by itself doesn't lessen the chances of toppling.

Another option for about the same price as the Evos, with the tower-stability advantages and falling more into the "neutral" category in between the Wharfedales and something like SVS Ultra, would be the Chane A5.5 with its planar tweeter.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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Yes I think the Denon will do fine as long as you are not expecting clean reference level output at 12'+, which no low sensitivity speaker will do with an AVR.

However, before I would consider bookshelf speakers that you have to then spend money on stands for, just get towers with the larger cabinet that serves as the stand, allows multiple woofers and greater SPL capability with lower distortion and better looks. Again, if the engineering and design excellence of Revel appeals to you, which translates directly to sound quality, I'd look at the F35's. They have a reasonable footprint that shouldn't over power your room. If it matters, the curved cabinets really give the appearance of being a much smaller speaker than they really are in terms of depth.
Well, thanks. Sort of. Now, I'm actually considering floorstands again. I did notice that the Revel M16 stands can be bolted up to the speakers from underneath - which is an interesting option. I was originally hoping I could just use the stands that I have currently, but more security would be some peace of mind. There's no question the Evo 4.2 would require some kind of special stands, but maybe a center channel stand turned sideways would work for them. They would still be sitting rather precariously with almost 30lbs teetering on whatever they are perched up on.

On the topic of the F35 though did you experiment and perhaps find an optimal spacing between them? I'm unfortunately somewhat limited in how much I can move speakers closer or farther away from each-other (probably 8 feet max). I've seen a review on the Wharfedale Evo 4.4 that made the point that they required something like 9 feet of separation to sound their best or else the mids/highs (I believe) were too pronounced/forward, etc. Because of my limited room to shift things around I'm questioning if the Wharfedale Evo 4.3 might require a bit less separation with the smaller drivers. Same mids/highs so I dunno if they wouldn't need just as much room.


I'm really being seduced by the look of those Wharfedales right now to be honest. I'm sure the Revel F35 are exceptionally engineered and the piano black is classy too, but I just really like the walnut on the Evos. I'm somewhat stunned by the look of these in the price range that I might otherwise believe most of the money would be sunk into the drivers themselves idk. I might consider that too in terms of reliability. I haven't yet found too much info on reliability and longevity on any of these speakers.


I'm trying to keep an open mind about it and not let the looks completely drive my decision. Even the option of the M16 with the stands that secure them might be in play. I have to consider if my center channel is going to fly for movies once I upgrade the mains. I needs an upgrade from the old Ascend anyway, but it's going to have to pull duty for a while if I go floorstands for mains.

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Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
Here's a pro review of the tower version of the Evos; same tweeter so I think the mids and highs would be similar, no mention of any female vocal issues:

https://www.whathifi.com/us/reviews/wharfedale-evo-44

The main drawback of the Wharfedales is that they are probably not as punchy/dynamic or aggressive as something like JBL, SVS Ultras, Klipsch RP, etc. if that is the sound signature you prefer; the Wharfedale house sound is usually described as being more "warm" and laid back, more suited for long hours of fatigue-free music listening than "wow, listen to those cymbal brushes!" type reactions.

Another option for about the same price as the Evos, with the tower-stability advantages and falling more into the "neutral" category in between the Wharfedales and something like SVS Ultra, would be the Chane A5.5 with its planar tweeter.
I'm honestly thinking that I'll be ok with the more laid back and warmer sound of the Evos. It might warm up the sound of the Denon a little and make it sound like the Marantz models that cost significantly more for basically the same spec. I'm specifically not particularly looking for speakers that are too bright. My biggest goals are to keep my big soundstage which I gather these Evos excel with and hopefully gain better detail and resolution, etc.

I appreciate everyone's help with this. I'm trying to see what I can find, but there's limited information on some of these options in terms of reviews. Like there will be a review of a the model one step up, but not the little brother, etc.
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post #12 of 13 Old 04-10-2020, 06:27 PM
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I'm honestly thinking that I'll be ok with the more laid back and warmer sound of the Evos. It might warm up the sound of the Denon a little and make it sound like the Marantz models that cost significantly more for basically the same spec. I'm specifically not particularly looking for speakers that are too bright. My biggest goals are to keep my big soundstage which I gather these Evos excel with and hopefully gain better detail and resolution, etc.

I appreciate everyone's help with this. I'm trying to see what I can find, but there's limited information on some of these options in terms of reviews. Like there will be a review of a the model one step up, but not the little brother, etc.
In most cases, the difference between say a bookshelf speaker and a tower speaker from the same make/model series is the extra amount of mid-bass and headroom which the tower's bigger cabinet and extra woofers inevitably produces---the mids and highs are usually identical or nearly identical.

If you are specifically looking for "warm" options, I would indeed put Wharfedale at the top of your list: the Evos and Diamonds (the 11x series is said to be a little more neutral than the 2xx series). They also have two "retro" models, the Linton and the Denton, if you're ok with their styling.

Emotiva T0/T1/T2 are warmish-neutral, along with Q Acoustics 3050 or Concept 40.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd View Post
They would still be sitting rather precariously with almost 30lbs teetering on whatever they are perched up on.

On the topic of the F35 though did you experiment and perhaps find an optimal spacing between them? I'm unfortunately somewhat limited in how much I can move speakers closer or farther away from each-other (probably 8 feet max). I've seen a review on the Wharfedale Evo 4.4 that made the point that they required something like 9 feet of separation to sound their best or else the mids/highs (I believe) were too pronounced/forward, etc. Because of my limited room to shift things around I'm questioning if the Wharfedale Evo 4.3 might require a bit less separation with the smaller drivers. Same mids/highs so I dunno if they wouldn't need just as much room.


I appreciate everyone's help with this. I'm trying to see what I can find, but there's limited information on some of these options in terms of reviews.
I share the same sentiment with bookshelves balancing precariously on stands....the whole concept just doesn't make a lot of sense to me....aesthetically tower speakers just look better, and perform better as well. Having said that, the Evo's do look really really nice, but dang they are a *BIG* "bookshelf" speaker. My towers are pretty deep and those are even deeper....almost 14"??? I think aesthetics are a very important part of choosing speakers you are going to keep for many years. Have you considered saving up a little more and springing for the Evo towers? Personally, I'd be hesitant to buy any speaker without good objective measurement data...and "professional" reviews are all but meaningless as they don't provide any real information, just flowery subjective impressions......every single piece of gear they review is deemed good.....that's the nature of their business....positive, flowery, vague subjective review, get more gear and more advertising dollars. Call out someones gear because its bad, say goodbye to any more review samples and advertising dollars. If there aren't solid objective measurements available, the "pro" reviews aren't really professional, but rather just one persons opinion.

Might pay to sit back and see if any real reviews come out for the Evo(with measurements).

As far as placement concerns, all speakers of course need to be placed well, but I think well designed speakers are going to be less finicky than speakers that are not so well designed. If a speaker has a good, neutral frequency response both on and off axis, they won't be as picky as a speaker with big peaks or dips in the response at certain listening angles. B&W are notorious for this with their baked in roller coaster frequency response; owners constantly fiddling with placement, room treatments, swapping out gear and electronics with their own baked in eq to try and balance things back out.

So I'd take your time, be patient, and choose speakers you love that measure well and look great. Sounds like this could be a very long term purchase for you.
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