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Discussion Starter #81
Today, I listened to both the Revel F208 and the Sonus Faber Olympica III. For those keeping score, the Revel F208 is MSRP of about $5,000 for a pair and the Sonus Faber Olympica III has an MSRP of $13,000 a pair.

Not a lot of time for a detailed post right now; but, I demoed the SF first--Revel 2nd. As the dealer went to set up the Revel, he reminded me that we'd be hearing speakers that cost just over1/3rd of what the SF did. I did a dozen songs on each speaker (10 identical songs and then changed up 2 for each just to get some variety in there). I expected the Sonus Faber to win; but, thought the Revel would be close enough to give a real sense. On all but a single track, the Revel F208 outshone the $13,000 Sonus Faber Olympica III. The only track in which I didn't prefer it required a lot of low-end and the Olympicas were able to dig deeper to make the song feel more complete.

I'll share my track list and more details later; but, for my speaker demos, I'm ranking them:

* Revel F208 ($5,000 MSRP)
* Sonus Faber Olympica III ($13,000 MSRP)
* Martin Logan Expression 13A ($15,000 MSRP) - and let me be clear, this was a DISTANT third.

Blown away today. Really a great experience!
 
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Looks like you are possibly on your way to a purchase decision, nalthien, so I won't bother giving any speaker suggestions. (Speakers are such a personal choice anyway). But here's my answer to your original question. One guy's journey away from electrostatics...



Has anyone else made this transition? What brands have you considered or did you ultimately purchase? Did you miss the ultra-transparency of the electrostats? What was it that made you choose your new speakers?



Yes.

It was first hearing some Martin Logan electrostatics, and then finally some Quad ESL 63 electrostatics at a pal's house, that re-ignited my interest in high end audio. (I grew up listening to a great system, my dad was into it).

It was a real paradigm change from box speakers - that transparency that...lack of box sound!

I ended up with the Quad 63s on their own for a while. I liked their richer, fuller sound relative to the Martin Logan sound. But though I loved what the Quads were good at for quite a while, one thing that began to gnaw at me was the lack of presence, palpability and impact. Through the Quads, as through any electrostatic I've ever heard (before or since), they cast clear sonic images, but those instruments didn't seem to "move the air" in the room like a box speaker. There was a sense of the music happening in another room, on the other side of the panels, that I peered in to but didn't really partake in because the sound was ghostly.


I added the Gradient dipole subwoofers, which were made specially for the Quad ESL 63s (hence their dipole radiation to match the Quads) and it is still the most seamless blend of dynamic driver/sub with a panel I've heard.

And yet, it didn't really solve the problem. Everything that came from the electrostatic panels was still of that ghostly character. That's one thing that continues to bug me about every hybrid ESL I've ever heard (which includes many of the new Martin Logans at shows, and at my friend's place).
I've heard since the 90's "they've finally managed to get the blend of sub/electrostat pretty seamless now!" And yet every single hybrid I hear sounds discontinuous in character. The bass region has some of the punch of a dynamic driver, but the sound coming from the panels has that electrostatic "not moving air" character. I actually still LOVE listening to electrostatics and do so whenever I have a chance. I was listening recently at my friend's Martin Logan hybrids. Loved what they did in terms of transparency. My friend played some bass heavy tracks and I asked if he found himself satisfied with the punch of the sound. He said "Oh hell yeah, it's plenty punchy." But I think he was responding to the impact of the dynamic woofer. Yes, you feel that and that can give the impression that the sound now has dynamic punch. But, to my annoyance, I can't really be fooled by it because I notice the the sense of moving air is really only happening in the bass region, not much anywhere else.

Anyway....

As anyone knows when moving away from electrostatics, it's hard to replace that sense of transparency and boxless quality. However, my follow up speaker (going back to the late 90's now) were the Von Schweikert VR-4 Gen 2 speakers, which were large full range dynamic speakers that had startling 3 dimensionality and a very open boxless sound. I found them more satisfying and stayed longer with the VRs. But...being an audiophile...of course moved on. I've had plenty of different speakers through my place since.

I'd say the most amazing mix of electrostatic transparency/boxless sound with dynamics would be my MBL radialstrahler 121 omni-directional monitors. They are as boxless and transparent, and at least as detailed (but even more naturally so) than any panel speaker I've heard. Also the most 3 dimensional, and often the most realistic sound I've heard on some tracks.

But...limited in the bass.

Beyond that speakers like those from Audio Physic were really great, as they really "disappear" as obvious sound sources, soundstage amazingly well, and are still dynamic.

Though I think probably, over all, the best combination of qualities I've had in a speaker at home has been my Thiel 3.7s, Jim Thiel's last flagship speaker. Aside from the MBLs, I don't think I've heard any other speaker that combines the quality of being utterly "boxless" in sound, so 3-dimensional sounding, so precise in in imaging with such image density and palpability, and so smooth and tonally believable.

I had to just sell the darn things because they were visually a bit too big for my room.

I'm likely picking up some Joseph Audio Perspective speakers, which to my ears have an astonishingly realistic tone, sound "boxless," image fantastic, and are very dynamic. Plus....very modest in size.

I know electrostatics have the reputation of almost unbeatable clarity and transient precision (at least subjectively) but I find quite a number of dynamic box speakers to be as good or better. For instance, the Joseph speakers have often been described has having an electrostatic/ribbon-like transparency, and after listening to them I actually found my friend's Martin Logan electrostats actually less impressive in those areas.


All that said, I still am very fond of electrostats (and Maggies), the Quad ESL 57 being my all time favorite (I'd own a pair if I had a place to store them when not listening). I certainly still get their appeal. If you like "that sound" nothing else really sounds just like a panel speaker.
 

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back in the 90's....ML or maggies were the end all be all...with a sub or 2...


today I have heard $500 bookshelves that can put up or shut up.


in the few years I have had my lower tier focals, maybe 10x I have been shown where they are at...like today an old elton john track. I blame it all on the mixer as todays spekers can really disappear. I now judge on position of image being forwards/backwards. stage is easily farther than width...its a great time for new speakers.
 
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Discussion Starter #84
OK, folks! Time to share some details about my experience with the demo today.

I arrived with a friend today to demo two speakers: The Sonus Faber Olympica III and the Revel F208. I would have preferred to demo the Revel Salon 2 or Studio 2; however, no dealer in my area had any of these available. When I arrived, I had an opportunity to check out the turntable selection which was cool--several sweet tables including the VPI Prime that I ordered a couple of days ago. It was the first time I'd seen one in person; and, now I'm doubly excited! We went into a room where it was obvious that great care was taken in the setup. The Sonus Faber Olympica IIIs were up first. The toe-in angle was more than I would personally use, effectively making the main listening position on-axis. Outside of that, the setup was great. They had a very cool setup using Roon + Tidal to allow me to choose any music in lossless format which was playing through a dCS Rossini, and an Audio Research tube preamp / ss power amp combination. Since this dealer does not sell McIntosh, it was their best effort to mimic my own hardware (though I will never purchase a $20,000 network audio player).

Before I go further, let me say that both of these speakers absolutely blew the $15,000 Martin Logan 13A out of the water. From the moment I heard the first notes, I knew my life with ESLs was over. Both of these are great speakers and I can absolutely understand why someone might pick either over the other. I'll try to share my reasons for my own conclusion.

Before we switched, I reminded myself that I was comparing a $5,000 pair of speakers with a $13,000 pair.

I'll list each track and give my impression for the Olympicas (SF) and F208 (F208). Everything is purely subjective and I am by no means a professional reviewer!

Holly Cole Trio - Je ne T'aime Pas - This is a track I'd never heard before; it was suggested as a warm up by the dealer after I refused to hear The Eagles - Hotel California (I'm with "The Dude" on this one). I immediately loved the track and it was, indeed, a great demo with great fidelity in the recording, a few instruments, and wonderful female vocals.

SF - Everything sounded great! The sound stage was well-defined and the presence was immediately felt. We were off to a great start and I knew I was doing the right thing in getting out of panels.

F208 - Whoa--we've got a contest here! Expecting that the F208 wouldn't be able to keep up with the more expensive speakers, I was shocked when I noticed two key things: first, the sound stage was even wider than it had been on the Olympica. Second, I immediately noticed how the Revels didn't suffer from the Sonus Faber rolloff at the top end. It was like a thin, sheer fabric had been lifted off the tweeters. Not exactly a subtle difference--but not huge. That said, I judged this one a win for the F208.

Telefon Tel Aviv - I Lied One of my all-time favorite tracks that's great for examining sound stage, male vocals, and the ability of the speaker to produce deep, clean bass.

SF - I wasn't fully convinced the dealer hadn't hooked up subwoofers; these were the first speakers I'd ever heard manage some of the low notes with conviction! Everything about this one sounded fantastic and I judged it a win for the Olympicas.

F208 - OK, a bit back to reality here; the F208s weren't capable of reproducing the lowest notes of this track. While the sound stage was well defined and the vocals were fantastic, the song sounded "incomplete." It was a bit strange as the spec sheet says that the F208 should get at least as low; but, they quite definitely did not in this track.

Seal - Crazy - I like this track for powerful male vocals.

SF - They really shined here. By this point in the demo, I was loving the Olympicas and they sounded amazing. The sound stage was far wider than I realized was possible on this track and Seal sounded like he was directly in front of me.

F208 - It was crazy; but, I heard details that I'd never heard before--not even with the Olympicas. Bits of audio that had been invisible were suddenly there in front of me and I enjoyed the song more than I ever had. The similar "removed the sheer fabric from the tweeter" effect was strong here as well--it would remain so for the demo. I judged this track a win for the F208.

Coheed and Cambria - Far - One of my examples of songs that just sound horrible on ESLs. I love Coheed & Cambria's progressive rock style; but, I found almost their entire catalog horrible on my Martin Logans

SF - They immediately brought a smile to my face. For the first time on an high end system, I could hear the song as it was meant to be. This is a really heavy rock track and the Olympicas were able to cut through the heavy and compressed recording and deliver a convincing (if not immaculate) sound stage. I was happy to know that some of my music that's been "off limits" on my current speakers will be in rotation again.

F208 - On this track, they really weren't any better or worse--the only difference I really noticed was the more pronounced high-end that I'd come to expect. As such, I judged it a win for the F208.

Prince - Purple Rain - Great song for uncovering nuance, hidden detail, and the feeling of a live recording.

SF - Ooh...a bit of a stumble here. Look, there was nothing wrong; but, it was the first time I felt like the Martin Logan had outperformed the SF. It just sounded a bit flat compared to the Martin Logans which had really shined with this track.

F208 - For everything the SF didn't do with this track, the F208 did. The feeling of being in a concert hall was overwhelming. I could pick out every musician on the stage. I could hear every detail. It was the most spectacular reproduction of this song that I'd ever heard. If there was a moment in the demo that sealed the victory for Revel, this one was it. I'm honestly getting goose bumps thinking about it. Huge win for Revel here.

Nirvana - Man Who Sold the World (Live) - I honest go back and forth between the Nirvana cover and the David Bowie original. However, for critical listening, the production on the Nirvana recording is amazing. Great for assessing guitar reproduction.

I'm going to shortcut this one: there wasn't a ton of difference on this track and both speakers performed admirably. The Revel again sealed it with the feeling that it was more faithful due to bringing out elements that had been missing on the SF (but that you wouldn't have missed if you didn't know they were there).

Sarah McLachlan - Possession - One of my favorite tracks for assessing powerful female vocals

SF - I remarked to my friend that it was as if Sarah McLachlan was in the room with us. The SF really did great here. The sound stage on this track isn't fantastic; but, the SF cast it about as wide as it could.

F208 - I didn't think it was possible; but, the Revel speakers again took the lead here. Whereas there were a few moments on the Olympicas in which Sarah's voice almost became "shrill" - that never happened on the F208.

Orbital - Halcyon & On & On - I'm a big electronic music fan and this is a classic track.

Shortcutting again--very little difference here. Revels win on high end detail. They kept up fine in the low end on this track.

Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough - Electronic music that might be the worlds most impressive test of quickness, top end, and ability to retain coherence in a very busy track. It also has a nearly unrivaled sound stage.

SF - I was amazed. The speakers had the ability to cast the sound stage far wider than the speakers themselves with absolutely immaculate detail. The low-end was powerful to match the high end and, at no point did I think the speakers were falling behind.

F208 - If the SF was impressive, the F208 was a solid step up. Whereas the SF managed to project the sound stage well beyond the side boundaries, the F208 did it 3 dimensions and truly created a "wall of sound" effect. They matched the speed of the track and it was just amazing to hear the detail literally everywhere. I think the better top end of the F208 really shined here and it left the Olympicas feeling just OK by comparison (to that point, they had been the best version of this track I'd heard).

So there you have it, my impressions of these two fantastic speakers. A few overall conclusions (TL;DR)

  • The reputation Sonus Faber has for top end roll-off is real. It can be delightful in certain tracks; but, when you hear what you're missing, it just falls flat.
  • I compared a $5,000 speaker to a $13,000 speaker and the cheaper option won. Keep that in mind when shopping.
  • Yes, the Sonus Faber cabinets are beautifully stunning! If I didn't have a dedicated room, that would have been a bigger factor.
  • These are the songs I listened to fully on both sets. I listened to other tracks on each to get more information.
  • I wish I had pulled a few more tracks with female vocals; but, I was overall happy with my cross-section of music. I do wish I had some more jazz and classical music in there; but, I don't listen to those as often so it's ok.
I realized that my single biggest mistake when buying the Martin Logans was focusing on music that was "supposed to sound good" in my demos rather than focusing on music that I regularly listen to. While my test wasn't comprehensive, it was enough to convince me. Had there been more back-and-forth and not the 8-1 landslide for the Revel F208, I would have scheduled a follow-up demo session to go broader on the music.

So, that leads me to what I'm buying: I'm purchasing the Revel Salon 2. It's a big leap from the $5,000 MSRP to the $22,000 Salon 2; however, I was so blown away by the demo today that I left with the thought, "If that's what these guys can do for $5,000, I can't wait to hear their top effort!"

Besides...if I don't like them @DonH50 will buy them from me! :p
 

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For that budget you're missing an opportunity to hear KEF Blade 2. I wouldn't buy until you've heard them. My opinion is that they're better than the original, larger Blade.
 

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Today, I listened to both the Revel F208 and the Sonus Faber Olympica III. For those keeping score, the Revel F208 is MSRP of about $5,000 for a pair and the Sonus Faber Olympica III has an MSRP of $13,000 a pair.

Not a lot of time for a detailed post right now; but, I demoed the SF first--Revel 2nd. As the dealer went to set up the Revel, he reminded me that we'd be hearing speakers that cost just over1/3rd of what the SF did. I did a dozen songs on each speaker (10 identical songs and then changed up 2 for each just to get some variety in there). I expected the Sonus Faber to win; but, thought the Revel would be close enough to give a real sense. On all but a single track, the Revel F208 outshone the $13,000 Sonus Faber Olympica III. The only track in which I didn't prefer it required a lot of low-end and the Olympicas were able to dig deeper to make the song feel more complete.

I'll share my track list and more details later; but, for my speaker demos, I'm ranking them:

* Revel F208 ($5,000 MSRP)
* Sonus Faber Olympica III ($13,000 MSRP)
* Martin Logan Expression 13A ($15,000 MSRP) - and let me be clear, this was a DISTANT third.

Blown away today. Really a great experience!

If you don't mind buying used, you could save a few bucks on a pair of Revels Salons.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis925b8-revel-ultima-salon-ii-full-range-speakers-full-range
 

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Discussion Starter #87 (Edited)
For that budget you're missing an opportunity to hear KEF Blade 2. I wouldn't buy until you've heard them. My opinion is that they're better than the original, larger Blade.
I'm OK with that. I'm OK with it because I really have to be. I did my research, narrowed my choices down to a few brands, and did some demos. I multiple hours in demo rooms this week. Yes, I could go on the ultimate speaker quest and try out every brand that people suggested: KEF, Paradigm, Focal, etc. But I'd spend the next several weeks traveling and demoing and likely finding myself in analysis paralysis as each speaker has its strengths and weaknesses.

If you don't mind buying used, you could save a few bucks on a pair of Revels Salons.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis925b8-revel-ultima-salon-ii-full-range-speakers-full-range
You can find connections on AVS (and elsewhere, honestly) that can help you with electronics and speakers for less than MSRP.
 

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I'm OK with that. I'm OK with it because I really have to be. I did my research, narrowed my choices down to a few brands, and did some demos. I multiple hours in demo rooms this week. Yes, I could go on the ultimate speaker quest and try out every brand that people suggested: KEF, Paradigm, Focal, etc. But I'd spend the next several weeks traveling and demoing and likely finding myself in analysis paralysis as each speaker has its strengths and weaknesses.



There are some great connections on AVS that can help you with electronics and speakers for less that MSRP.
I listened to the new revel 228be all three days of AXPONA 2018. While I thought they were fine, there were many others that I liked at least as well in addition to the ML 13As that were in the Propensity room and close to ideally positioned. I didn't at all like the $80k ML Neolith or the 11As and 15As. Positioning was so wrong. However, the 15As in the constellation room were my 2nd favorite last year at AXPONA 2017 after the VAC, Von Schweikert room. I liked the Raidho, Wilsons, and now its getting far enough after the event, I don't remember what else it was.
 

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Discussion Starter #89
I listened to the new revel 228be all three days of AXPONA 2018. While I thought they were fine, there were many others that I liked at least as well in addition to the ML 13As that were in the Propensity room and close to ideally positioned.
In my tests, the only track where the 13As performed even close to as well as either of the speakers I demoed yesterday was on Purple Rain. I would say it did better than the Sonus Faber Olympica III with that track--but still very much behind the Revel.

I'm willing to admit that it's possible that with absolutely perfect setup, I might like the 13A better. I also know that I will almost certainly never have the perfect setup in my house.
 

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Discussion Starter #91

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I owned a pair of Motion 40 towers before I got my Theos.

Their measurements don't look great compared to either the SF Olympica III or the Revel F208 I demoed.
The only measurements I pay any attention to are my ears. Yeah, the 40's are nice, the 60's are in another league. Personally, I think ML has the best conventional speakers made. I've never been a fan of Revel...too damn expensive for what you get.
 

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Not to mention I'll never go back to domed tweeters again.
 

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Discussion Starter #94
The only measurements I pay any attention to are my ears. Yeah, the 40's are nice, the 60's are in another league. Personally, I think ML has the best conventional speakers made. I've never been a fan of Revel...too damn expensive for what you get.
My ears told me that the $5,000 F208 sounded far better than the $13,000 Sonus Faber Olympica III--I'd hardly call that "too damn expensive for what you get."

Your taste is your taste and that's fine. I've owned the Motion 40 and I've listened to the Motion 60XT. I do not believe that either of them hold a candle to the other speakers I demoed (including the 13A) for me.
 

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In my tests, the only track where the 13As performed even close to as well as either of the speakers I demoed yesterday was on Purple Rain. I would say it did better than the Sonus Faber Olympica III with that track--but still very much behind the Revel.

I'm willing to admit that it's possible that with absolutely perfect setup, I might like the 13A better. I also know that I will almost certainly never have the perfect setup in my house.

Positioning is absolutely everything with a dipole ESL. If one cannot or will do what seems to be necessary, I recommend something else. The 'cannot' of course can be due to pets, WAF, kids or a multitude of other reasons. I have mine in a room I don't need for anything else so I could pretty much ruined it for any other use.

In fact I agree with you in re "Coheed and Cambria - Far" that its a pretty horrible recording / mastering and did not sound so good on any of my systems, but the ESLs really slaughter it. I tried it after you mentioned yesterday in all of the systems. I generally listen to a bunch of old Living Stereo and Living Presence and they're just marvelous on that type of material. Also on jazz and ECM Records type of whatever you'd want to call the genre. I do listen once in a while to electronica such as Infected Shrooms, Deadmau, Moby, etc., and they surprised me how well they worked with some of that genre.

I may build one more house as there's a new geezer neighborhood in the early stages of construction very near me. Real reason is to get me a four car garage with a slightly smaller house than houses I generally see with four+ car garages. A side benefit is that it's big enough that it gives me one more room suitable for an audio room. I may also try something else next time. Replacement for my small ML EM ESLs would likely be the 13As or 11As. And for the 'something else' in the additional room, I have no idea where I'd end up.
 

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My ears told me that the $5,000 F208 sounded far better than the $13,000 Sonus Faber Olympica III--I'd hardly call that "too damn expensive for what you get."

Your taste is your taste and that's fine. I've owned the Motion 40 and I've listened to the Motion 60XT. I do not believe that either of them hold a candle to the other speakers I demoed (including the 13A) for me.
I agree with you here too. No way for me on the non-ESL MLs. I'd probably pick what I bought, the Elac F6.2s
 

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Discussion Starter #97
In fact I agree with you in re "Coheed and Cambria - Far" that its a pretty horrible recording / mastering and did not sound so good on any of my systems, but the ESLs really slaughter it. I tried it after you mentioned yesterday in all of the systems.
Watching the meters on my McIntosh gear with that track playing is horrifying. They peg to a single position and they basically do not move the entire track. That's some seriously compressed dynamics! I like the song; but, the recording was obviously done for Apple earbuds and not real listening. That said, I found it bearable on both speakers yesterday and I absolutely cannot listen to it on my ESLs.
 
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Watching the meters on my McIntosh gear with that track playing is horrifying. They peg to a single position and they basically do not move the entire track. That's some seriously compressed dynamics! I like the song; but, the recording was obviously done for Apple earbuds and not real listening. That said, I found it bearable on both speakers yesterday and I absolutely cannot listen to it on my ESLs.
I believe that and understand why. Absolutely did NOT work for me either.

What I really like in your list was Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough. That was just great and way better on the ESLs than my other speakers.

I find lots and lots of new music on the pages of AVS. I try virtually everything that anyone posts on Tidal and if I really like it then try to find the LP.
 

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Discussion Starter #99
What I really like in your list was Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough. That was just great and way better on the ESLs than my other speakers.
Flash back to 2002 or so. My roommate (a rock musician) knew I was into electronic music and didn't know anything about it--and I was asleep. He search Kazaa (blast from the past) for "trance music" and found that track. I found it hilarious at first because it's not even close to the "trance" genre. But...I loved the song anyway. It took years for us to find anything else by Telefon Tel Aviv and I ended up chasing down both Fahrenheit Fair Enough and Map of What is Effortless on vinyl many years later.

In every speaker demo I've ever done, I've included the two Telefon Tel Aviv songs that I did in this one--and every dealer I've worked with has asked as the songs ended, "Dude...who was that?!?!"

It's a shame one of the duo had to die young; they were really special!
 

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My ears told me that the $5,000 F208 sounded far better than the $13,000 Sonus Faber Olympica III--I'd hardly call that "too damn expensive for what you get."

Your taste is your taste and that's fine. I've owned the Motion 40 and I've listened to the Motion 60XT. I do not believe that either of them hold a candle to the other speakers I demoed (including the 13A) for me.
No problem agreeing to disagree. The F208 is indeed "too damn expensive for what you get". Different strokes for different folks. That's what makes the world go round. ;)
 
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