$300ish Bookshelf Shootout (another one?!) - Page 3 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #61 of 579 Old 04-26-2020, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Based on some preliminary listening, I bet it’s the Elacs.
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post #62 of 579 Old 04-26-2020, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Ok here's the final line up for new speakers in addition to the RC-10s and S30s I already have and most likely eliminated:
  1. Vanatoo Transparent Zero - $360 (actives with DAC)
  2. KEF Q150 - $300
  3. Elac Debut 2.0 5.2 - $300
  4. PSB Alpha P3 - $220
  5. Q Acoustic 3020i - $315
  6. NHT C1 - $280
  7. Ascend CBM-170 SE - $300

This has already escalated. hah

Any advice on a testing strategy? tourney bracket style? I'll use Tidal Masters as the source. The amp (NAD 3045) has a USB DAC built in. If anyone has a song request or recommendation i'll consider it.
Great list! Looking forward to reading this one! I think the way I did mine was good with the winner simply moving on from round to round, it helped me pick out similarities and differences in the competition a little more readily instead of having to refresh my memory of what I did and did not like. Like others have said, listen to YOUR music. If you don't listen to classical, don't put it on. If you listen to a lot of rap then listen to a lot of rap. I think most importantly, don't let anything you read sway your direction. For example, in my shootout the Wharfdales were imaging kings but there were a few nuances that I didn't like. The Ascends were great at just about everything but I couldn't tame the sibilance. Just go with what your ears are telling you about your personal preferences. These are going to be your speakers so do your thing! If you don't have a switcher, consider grabbing one used. Yes we could debate about how it introduces distortion, blah blah blah and that's all accurate but it is absolutely the only way to definitively pick up on subtleties between pairs.
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post #63 of 579 Old 04-26-2020, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Gary Mertz View Post
If you don't have a switcher, consider grabbing one used. Yes we could debate about how it introduces distortion, blah blah blah and that's all accurate but it is absolutely the only way to definitively pick up on subtleties between pairs.
Good tip. I didn't see any speaker selector boxes that i liked at a decent price so I actually bought the parts to make one. Just a 4PDT switch and a bunch of binding posts. It'll be nice to have as even switching zones on the receiver is too slow.
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post #64 of 579 Old 04-26-2020, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by GordonGekko99 View Post
I can't remember where I read this, but someone wrote that the Q Acoustics 3030 i's, $399 a pair on Amazon, had a top notch imaging and soundstage or whatever the proper term is, actually I found the exact message from a poster on another site:
Steve Guttenberg posted a review on YouTube yesterday. He had high praise for them.
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post #65 of 579 Old 04-27-2020, 09:31 AM
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Looking forward to how the Q150s compare to the Elacs (esp since the KEF sale just ended

EDIT: Just found KEF authorized reseller of KEF refurb: accessories4less.com (yeah, yeah I'm probably late to the party).

Still looking forward to the upcoming comparisons.

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post #66 of 579 Old 04-27-2020, 09:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Based on some preliminary listening, I bet it’s the Elacs.
Just to follow up on this. When i first fired up the Elacs they were super thin and tinny. I couldn't believe anyone could like them. It was to the degree that i checked the wiring for phase issues and that the woofers were working. I also swapped them on the Main vs Zone 2 amps on the receiver in case they were setup differently. Eventually though the issue went away. I think they just needed to be broken in a bit as i found nothing wrong technically. Now they sound more normal and are in the same ball park as the others in terms of range. So false alarm there.

I wasn't sure i really believed in break in, but from now on i'll give the new speakers a couple hours of bassy stuff. Fwiw, i haven't noticed any change in the KEFs over time.

The NAD D 3045 showed up this morning and i played with it a bit. It sounds pretty similar to the old Denon, maybe a tad clearer/brighter using the same analog signal path, but hard to say. Definitely no major WOW moment. However, I am now able to run my iPhone to the NAD's USB input via the Apple Camera Connection kit. This allows me to stream Tidal Masters and get the pretty MQA light to light up on the NAD which means its doing the second layer of unfolding. Pretty cool. This connection setup does sound better than the analog outputs running from the phone which is what i was using before.
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post #67 of 579 Old 04-27-2020, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
That range is ok based on the ASR review, I would import the listening window and early reflections into REW and mess around with the 5-10k range, taking the minimal amount off to flatten the listening window, I'd take a bit out of the 700-1k region too, that makes voices sound a bit "nasally".
I don't actually have REW, so any corrections I would do would have to be through my AVR (Yamaha) which is more limited I would guess.

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I have done it with some success but it's a bit more problematic than the ascends..
Maybe it would be easier to use the q150s and boost them a little within the same range? @aarons915 did you try anything like that with the q150s when you had them? Or maybe they didn't seem so recessed in the upper mids/lower treble to you?

I don't really listen much to either set anymore, but I never really did finalize a set of speakers in my main floor. With all this virus and stay at home situation now, I probably have more time to play with things up there. It is really more of a background listening area though, so bottom of the list in my order of main listening spaces. I think the AAMs will probably end up there.
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post #68 of 579 Old 04-27-2020, 05:16 PM
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I don't actually have REW, so any corrections I would do would have to be through my AVR (Yamaha) which is more limited I would guess.
I took home a Yamaha from costco recently and it does have PEQ but the filters are all set at certain frequencies so the odds that they will be where you need them is pretty slim. If you use a PC to play all your audio you can use the free equalizer APO software and the Peace addon, that's what I use now above the transition frequency since Audyssey sucks too.

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Maybe it would be easier to use the q150s and boost them a little within the same range? @aarons915 did you try anything like that with the q150s when you had them? Or maybe they didn't seem so recessed in the upper mids/lower treble to you?
That could work but we really need a proper anechoic measurement like the Q100 has to see exactly where they need boost, based on my in room measurements of the Q150 and LS50, it looks like the 2-5k region is where the LS50 have a lot more output.
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post #69 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
I took home a Yamaha from costco recently and it does have PEQ but the filters are all set at certain frequencies so the odds that they will be where you need them is pretty slim. If you use a PC to play all your audio you can use the free equalizer APO software and the Peace addon, that's what I use now above the transition frequency since Audyssey sucks too.



That could work but we really need a proper anechoic measurement like the Q100 has to see exactly where they need boost, based on my in room measurements of the Q150 and LS50, it looks like the 2-5k region is where the LS50 have a lot more output.
Yamaha has graphic EQ and not PEQ.
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post #70 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 08:47 AM
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Yamaha has graphic EQ and not PEQ.
Maybe older ones did but the 7830 with YPAO gives you 5 or 6 bands of PEQ , you can change the Q factor unlike a graphic EQ. It's very low resolution though, the center frequencies that you can select are too far apart so it's unlikely to work for most people.
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post #71 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 08:54 AM
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Maybe older ones did but the 7830 with YPAO gives you 5 or 6 bands of PEQ , you can change the Q factor unlike a graphic EQ. It's very low resolution though, the center frequencies that you can select are too far apart so it's unlikely to work for most people.
I apologize. I am wrong. I had the 7850 and had forgotten.
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post #72 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms are on sale for $240. hrmmm

Any experience with these?
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post #73 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms are on sale for $240. hrmmm

Any experience with these?
Based on your RC experience...I'd say perhaps. Both PSB and Energy have similar signiture...laid back, nice soundstage albeit recessed highs... Paradigm...tend to have a bit more sparkle...in that range....from my past experiences....monitor line was more inline with the C series from Energy....the RC...back in their heyday where more inline with the Studios.

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post #74 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 07:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Today UPS dropped off the PSB Alpha P3s so i let them "break in" over dinner and listened to them for the next three or so hours. Time for another comparison!

PSB Alpha P3s vs Vanatoo Transparent Zeros
https://vanatoo.com/shop/speakers/transparent-zero/
https://www.psbspeakers.com/product/...shelf-speaker/

I still don't have the parts for my speaker selector switch and with the T0s being active and thus rendering a speaker switch moot, i decided to do this test. It's also interesting that they're both smaller speakers with 4" "woofers". I sat them about 5ft apart and sat about 6ft back. I'm running the T0s in Flat mode with the compressors disabled. They're on their stands so vertical like a bookshelf speaker.

I started with the T0s earlier in the evening after i moved them to the basement from my office. My first impression is that they sounded a little small. Yep, im in a big basement, I should have known. They didn't sound bad, they have a good range and sound pretty flat, if not a little bright, but they definitely didn't have the extension of the 5.25" bookshelves i've been listening to for the past week. Fair enough.

Then the UPS guy showed up with the Alpha P3s so i quickly set them up and started some music to play while we ate dinner so they could "break in". I played Beyonce's Hold Up as its pretty bassy and i thought that'd get 'em working. I hit play and was like wow, noootttt bad. These go a lot deeper than the Vanatoos. I immediately liked what i was hearing. Then i ran upstairs to eat.

After an hour i came back down to do some A/B testing. It's a bit of pain as for each test i had to get up and swap the USB cable between the NAD amp for the P3s and the Vanatoos. I was again using my iPhone with USB camera connection kit and Tidal Hifi/Masters as the source. Note that the Vanatoo's USB DAC only supports 16/48. (the optical and coax support 24/96), fwiw.

First up was Fleetwood Mac's Dreams which i'm really liking as a first test song. I started with the PSBs and noted that the bass was surprisingly deep and tight. Pretty punchy. (checking my notes here) i also wrote that they sounded quite smooth, maybe laid back. And warm. They were immediately comfortable to listen to. Then i swapped to the Vanatoos and wrote that they sound brighter and crisper, cool as opposed to warm. The snare drum snapped more, but lacked a little substance. It's an odd thing to notice, but the backup vocals sounded thinner. And they definitely didn't play as deep.

Then i decided to throw some modern energy at them so i played The Weeknd's "Blinding Light", this time the T0s first. I noted the snare sound thin and the synths crisp, but also sort of metallic. Swapping to the P3s, immediately found the deep bass under the main synth pads. His voice also sounded a bit warmer.

An interesting test that i found during my ongoing Q150 vs Elac Debut testing. This new Death Cab for Cutie song "To the Ground" has a real deep sub bass note that plays every couple bars. With the Q150s i though i heard it distorting the vocals a bit. So i decided to try it here. The P3s were first this time and i think i could hear it distort the vocals a bit. It's subtle and if i focus on it i'm not sure i hear it, but if its an effect that prompts me to think about it, then something must be there. On that note, the P3s did play that deep note quite well. This song may not recorded all that well, or maybe its just the amount of bass plus other stuff, but the low end got a bit sloppy here. On the other hand, the Vanatoos didn't play that note at all. It simply wasn't there. I wonder if the DSP in their amp high passes at some point to avoid the flub. And to its credit, the vocal were certainly clear and not distorted.

At this point i was getting the picture. The PSBs are warm and smooth while the T0s were a little thinner and a little brighter. At the same time I don't think the PSB are as laid back as the RC-10s. They sound pretty dang on to me. I was excited about this quality so i picked a few vocal centric tracks to test out. "The Barrel" by Aldous Harding, "Piano Joint" by Michael Kiwanuka, and "Every Single Night" by Fiona Apple. Then i picked up the energy a notch with "Heads Will Roll" by Jenny Lewis. All sounded really nice and wam and full on the PSBs and all just a little thin with the Vanatoos.

Then i decided that i was being biased against the T0s so i sought out some fuller range higher energy stuff. I compared Beyonce "Hold Up", and there's just no contest. The PSBs play so much deeper and punchier. The T0s sucked the guts out of Beyonce's voice. Then I went down a rabbit hole of '90s rock music and played Alice in Chains. In a couple songs i liked the crispness of distorted guitars with the Vanatoos, but on others i felt it thinned them out. Probably depends on the amp tuning and recording. Then i played some Rage Against the Machine and again, i like the oomph of the vocals and overall energy with the PSBs.

At this point i got the picture and spent the next hour rocking out Rage Against the Machine and other random '90s playlist songs on the PSBs just for fun.

It's interesting. The Vanatoos are known to measure very well. They have a DSP ensuring things are pretty flat. I think my room was pretty good and shouldn't be distorting the response too bad. Maybe I don't like flat? It's all subjective i guess, but to put it simple, the Vantoos were accurate and clear and I didn't notice any obvious peaks or valleys. But also bright and thin to my ears. They sounded like 4" speakers. On the other hand the PSB had pretty amazing depth. Going on my memory of the Elac's i've been listening to since Saturday, these might even go deeper. The PSBs sound big and full and punchy. I wouldn't feel bad comparing these to the 5" speakers in the test whereas with the Vanatoos i'd feel like i was putting them a bit out of their depth. The PSBs have this really nice comfortable sound. Sometimes a tension builds up in my ears, like bracing for too much volume or treble. With theses i felt like that melted away. It was just very very pleasant. So perhaps they're laid back, but certainly not as much as the RC-10s which stood out to me as being laid back. The PSBs sound correct to me. They're impressive, so much so that if they continue to do well in this test i might spring for the 5" P5 version. But then again, if these work, what's the point? Interesting!

It should also be said that the Vanatoos are active speakers that even include a USB input so they're a great value. Their size and form factor is also second to none for desktop use. I wasn't quite "near field" for this test, so maybe this wasn't quite fair. These have been my every day computer speakers for the past few weeks and i've consistently enjoyed them in that setting. Interestingly they sounded a lot beefier than the Cambridge Audio S30s i was playing with in my office as well. Maybe tomorrow i'll compare the P3s with them in my office on my desk.. hrmm

I should also mention that the build quality of the T0s is pretty nice. They are heavy and solid, finished nicely, and have magnetic grills. Much nicer than the look on their website. The PSBs are actually a little cheap looking. The binding posts are cheap and they're in this tiny little cup i could barely get my fingers in to tighten the posts down. From the front, the PSBs look decent enough, though. The drivers look nice and the grills are also magnetic.

Part II: In the office.
I kept thinking that i didn't like the T0s nearly as much in this test as i did in my office so i decided to move both pairs of speakers back up to my office and do a short comparison. Partly, it's a second point of view, and partly, it'll help see how testing in the basement might translate to my office.

I listened to several of the same songs as before and here's my conclusion. Both speakers gained some oomph in the smaller office. The T0s picked up some low end and became more balanced. The P3s also gained some low end, maybe a tiny bit too much. Simpler song's like Dreams with a kick over a bassline remained nice and pretty tight. But some songs like Radiohead's Paranoid Android got a little mushy in the low end. Just too much going on in this room. The speakers are only about 10" from the wall so maybe port plugs would help. The acoustics in this room suck so maybe less bass is more.

However, the character of the mids and highs didn't change much. With the T0s playing Dreams, the snare is a little thin and the splash cymbols a little surprising at times. I preferred both on the Alpha P3. And voices just a little more natural as well.

In summary, i'd say the two got closer in the office. The T0s became more balanced. They're crisp and clear, but a little thin. Some cons to the P3s showed up with the amount of bass they produce in this room. However, their overall tone is still preferable to my ears so they still win.

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post #75 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy p View Post
Based on your RC experience...I'd say perhaps. Both PSB and Energy have similar signiture...laid back, nice soundstage albeit recessed highs... Paradigm...tend to have a bit more sparkle...in that range....from my past experiences....monitor line was more inline with the C series from Energy....the RC...back in their heyday where more inline with the Studios.
Very interesting. And that description pretty much fits the PSBs from my listening today. Fine, i ordered the Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms!
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post #76 of 579 Old 04-28-2020, 09:09 PM
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I wonder if the Vanatoos are a bit "clinical" to your ears? I think Vikram is also finding the need for PEQ for his Vans.
I have the P3s for Atmos. It was either them, or NHT SuperZeros. I already had a pair of PSB Alpha A1s for front heights, so the P3s it was.
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post #77 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 07:59 AM
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Is the Q Acoustics 3020i on the bright side or more neutral?

I need 3.0 set up and can only fit a center about 17.5" wide at most. (3090ci)

I prefer a bit more HF energy than most.

replacing a Goldeear soundbar that sounds fine, just going away from soundbar.

I have a couple of subs to use.
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post #78 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 02:59 PM
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Good reads, @TXBDan you're doing a great job and its a great price range for a lot of folks. I wonder how the PSB Alphas would fare against the PSB Imagine XTs that I reviewed?



Talk about opening a can of worms. Doing a shoot out of a manufacturer's different lines. That could get very pricey real quick but man it would be a lot of fun!
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post #79 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 03:36 PM
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Good reads, @TXBDan you're doing a great job and its a great price range for a lot of folks. I wonder how the PSB Alphas would fare against the PSB Imagine XTs that I reviewed?



Talk about opening a can of worms. Doing a shoot out of a manufacturer's different lines. That could get very pricey real quick but man it would be a lot of fun!
IMO, that test would absolutely, positively, have to be done blind. Way too much expectation bias in favor of the more expensive model to basically guarantee that it will sound better.
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post #80 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 03:58 PM
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Talk about opening a can of worms. Doing a shoot out of a manufacturer's different lines. That could get very pricey real quick but man it would be a lot of fun!
I will throw myself on that grenade, as long as someone is willing to fund it.
I can see myself doing a JTR, Paradigm (Monitor SE to Persona), Kef (Eggs all the way to Muons), Salk, and Funk.
Of course, I would need a suitable location, with proper electronics, acoustical treatment, bass management, etc... lol
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post #81 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 04:04 PM
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IMO, that test would absolutely, positively, have to be done blind. Way too much expectation bias in favor of the more expensive model to basically guarantee that it will sound better.

Without question, agreed. Woe be to the person reading that one after having just bought something. Like for me, having bought the JBL 590s and seeing the HDI's duke it out with them. Better have a great budget flexibility!
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post #82 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 04:08 PM
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I will throw myself on that grenade, as long as someone is willing to fund it.
I can see myself doing a JTR, Paradigm (Monitor SE to Persona), Kef (Eggs all the way to Muons), Salk, and Funk.
Of course, I would need a suitable location, with proper electronics, acoustical treatment, bass management, etc... lol
Whatever you do, do NOT add Focal to the list. Grand Utopias. 'Nuff said.
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post #83 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Tonight i moved the T0s and P3s up to my office for a second check. See the results above.


The Q Acoustics 3020is arrived today. I listened to them a little bit and they sound quite nice. They're in the neutral/bright family i'd say. I'd rank the speakers i've heard so far from brightest to most laid back as:
  • Elac Debut
  • Vanatoo T0
  • Q Acoustics 3020i
  • gap here
  • KEF Q150
  • PSB Alpha P3
  • Energy RC-10

I've been listening to the Q150 vs Elacs a lot for the past few nights, but i want to hold off on the comparison until i get the speaker selector switch going. It's such a pain swapping banana plugs every minute. The winner of that will move onto the 3020is. And by then i'll have more speakers. i'm getting buried!
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post #84 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Tonight i moved the T0s and P3s up to my office for a second check. See the results above.


The Q Acoustics 3020is arrived today. I listened to them a little bit and they sound quite nice. They're in the neutral/bright family i'd say. I'd rank the speakers i've heard so far from brightest to most laid back as:
  • Elac Debut
  • Vanatoo T0
  • Q Acoustics 3020i
  • gap here
  • KEF Q150
  • PSB Alpha P3
  • Energy RC-10

I've been listening to the Q150 vs Elacs a lot for the past few nights, but i want to hold off on the comparison until i get the speaker selector switch going. It's such a pain swapping banana plugs every minute. The winner of that will move onto the 3020is. And by then i'll have more speakers. i'm getting buried!
good stuff .. seems like you're getting into the meat of the comp now .. very good job so far
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post #85 of 579 Old 04-29-2020, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post
Tonight i moved the T0s and P3s up to my office for a second check. See the results above.


The Q Acoustics 3020is arrived today. I listened to them a little bit and they sound quite nice. They're in the neutral/bright family i'd say. I'd rank the speakers i've heard so far from brightest to most laid back as:
  • Elac Debut
  • Vanatoo T0
  • Q Acoustics 3020i
  • gap here
  • KEF Q150
  • PSB Alpha P3
  • Energy RC-10

I've been listening to the Q150 vs Elacs a lot for the past few nights, but i want to hold off on the comparison until i get the speaker selector switch going. It's such a pain swapping banana plugs every minute. The winner of that will move onto the 3020is. And by then i'll have more speakers. i'm getting buried!
Glad to hear about the switcher. It will make an enormous difference in how you approach this and how well you are able to pick apart the differences. I'm eager to hear how you are able to better compare them. I think you'll be surprised.
Feeling like you're buried in speakers. Yeah, I understand that!
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post #86 of 579 Old 04-30-2020, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
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All the parts for the switcher came today so i drilled holes in the box, mounted the binding posts, and wired it up. If all goes according to plan I can just drop the switch in when it comes tomorrow.

Perhaps more interestingly, the Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms showed up today. I only listened for a bit, but i'm impressed. They seem to walk the warm/bright line and offer up a lot of detail. This is going to get interesting at the end!
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post #87 of 579 Old 05-01-2020, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by TXBDan View Post

Perhaps more interestingly, the Paradigm Monitor SE Atoms showed up today. I only listened for a bit, but i'm impressed. They seem to walk the warm/bright line and offer up a lot of detail. This is going to get interesting at the end!
I'll be curious to see how these fair in your comparisons....I thought I like that warm textured, clinical...sound way back...this was based on speakers I had available at the time for auditioning... my focus and understanding changed after hearing what neutral and transparent speakers can do... providing that airiness which set them apart....of course this is all subjective....as for others ymmv.

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post #88 of 579 Old 05-01-2020, 08:18 AM
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I don't actually have REW, so any corrections I would do would have to be through my AVR (Yamaha) which is more limited I would guess.



Maybe it would be easier to use the q150s and boost them a little within the same range? @aarons915 did you try anything like that with the q150s when you had them? Or maybe they didn't seem so recessed in the upper mids/lower treble to you?

I don't really listen much to either set anymore, but I never really did finalize a set of speakers in my main floor. With all this virus and stay at home situation now, I probably have more time to play with things up there. It is really more of a background listening area though, so bottom of the list in my order of main listening spaces. I think the AAMs will probably end up there.
i would think the q150's might be an easier eq .. the q100's weren't horrible to eq, but the ascends are easier (just basically dropping everything above 1 k hz)..

YAMAHA TSR 5790.. front l/r Dennis Murphy modded emotiva b1's ..BIC v1220.....Emotiva basx10.... infinity alpha 20 center.. polk t15 rears..samsung 55" j620d
bedroom .. YAMAHA r-xv 383... front l/r.. ascend cbm 170 se... kef q100 center ... Emotiva basx8... samsung ku6300 50 in
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post #89 of 579 Old 05-01-2020, 10:45 AM - Thread Starter
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We have a switch box!




It was surprising that i couldn't find any reasonably priced passive, no-volume, switches that didn't connect grounds together.
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post #90 of 579 Old 05-01-2020, 12:45 PM
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Interesting, I ruled out the Ascend CBM-170s after reading the audiosciencereview review.
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I wouldn't take that website very seriously if I were you.


^^^
This was post-of-the-month-worthy stuff. I edited out most of it just to keep it short. But bravo and kuddos were in order.


To the O.P. - It looks like I'm too late to throw anything else in (and that's ok), but I have oft-expressed my affinity on these boards for pair of Emp Tek r5Bi's that I bought for under-your-budget, back when RBH was selling under that internet-direct label. I believe they still sell r5Bi's, now under the RBH brand, and I believe the price has risen a bit since I bought, to the point where we need the "ish" part of your "$300-ish" in order to apply, but I think they might fit the description of what you described as "desirable" to you with your analogy of speakers as Salt...
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