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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is largely going to come off as a rant, but I'm wondering if my experience is unique to me, or if this is just par for the course. I've finally got to the point where I want to replace the living room speakers that I've had since college (mid-90s). I've got Onix Rockets in the basement media room that serve us fine for home theater. I've done my research on here to check reviews and make a list of candidates.

Focal Aria 936
Focal Aria 948
KEF R700
KEF R900
Revel Performa3 F208
Revel Performa3 F206
Monitor Audio Gold GX 200
Monitor Audio Gold GX 300

So now its time to go find authorized dealers so I can listen to these things. I'm in the Rockford, IL area, so I'm probably going to have to do Milwaukee or Chicago (preference for Milwaukee) You'd think that would be easy, but no. The Revel dealer search doesn't work. The other brands may point me to dealers, but they don't always carry the line or particular speaker that I'm interested in hearing. Dealer websites are absolutely horrible. If they even have a website, they may list the brands that they carry, but rarely the lines or speakers that they have on the floor to listen to. Several of the dealers that I've been directed to don't even have standing hours, but are appointment only. They may or may not answer their phone. At this point, I'd probably be willing just to order them directly without hearing them (as I've done with the Rockets and two SVS subs), but that seems difficult or impossible for several of these lines as well.

I really just want to buy some decent speakers without having to jump through so many hoops (leaning toward the F208 based on reviews). Are my expectations out of line or is this much more difficult than it ought to be?
 

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Your experience is typical. Trying to audition speakers that are not carried by the big box stores is nearly impossible. I went to Axpona in Chicago a few years ago mainly to listen to speakers, there were hundreds on display. Problem, hotel rooms are far from ideal spaces to judge speakers. Some highly praised speakers sounded down right awful. I bought some like new used speakers off Audiogon based on reviews and got lucky, I love them. Good luck in your quest.
 

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You might consider embracing Internet direct. Order a couple, listen in your own home, and then send back the one you don't like. The shipping charges may be offset by the gas savings (and the money you presumably save by not going through a dealership). Alternatively, you might consider finding enthusiasts on this forum who would consider letting you audition their speakers. I've never done this, but there is a thread for this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Were the Onix Rockets ordered via internet dealer? If so, that might be part of your answer.
Yes, they were sold through AV123 (now defunct). I considered the Tekton Pendragons, but decided against with the customer service dissatisfaction that's been expressed recently. I'm also looking to explore one of the more established brands this time around.
 

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I guess it depends where you live. In my case I have two dealers within a 1/2 hour drive. And about 3 more about an 1 1/2 hours away. So I have a wide selection to choose from and they have let me take home equipment and speakers home to demo. :)
 

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Your experience is typical. Trying to audition speakers that are not carried by the big box stores is nearly impossible. I went to Axpona in Chicago a few years ago mainly to listen to speakers, there were hundreds on display. Problem, hotel rooms are far from ideal spaces to judge speakers. Some highly praised speakers sounded down right awful. I bought some like new used speakers off Audiogon based on reviews and got lucky, I love them. Good luck in your quest.
Which ones did you buy?
 

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Are my expectations out of line or is this much more difficult than it ought to be?
No and yes. But high-end equipment has been sold like this as long as I can remember. I'm assuming sales and dealer profits just aren't robust enough to have widespread or large outlets and inventory. Regardless, unless it's right around the corner from me, which it never is, and it can accommodate my schedule, I'm not going to deal with the hassle. There's simply nothing I want that badly.

I remember years ago I called up a place and ordered an NAD turntable. I drove to the place to pick it up and thought I was in the wrong place. It was a residential neighborhood, the address was a plain brick rancher, and the "shop" was in the guy's basement. Like you found out - by appointment only.

I was recently interested in the Revel M106. I typed in my ZIP on the Revel site and it simply said "No dealers found". What a great way to sell speakers :). Eventually I did find one in my State, but they were installers, were 50 miles away, by appointment only, and don't carry inventory. Forget it. So I ordered Paradigm Signatures off Audiogon and am hoping for the best.

Like everything else, it boils down to supply/demand. My demand simply isn't high enough to go out of my way for supply. I guess each person has to figure out their own ratio.
 

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This is largely going to come off as a rant, but I'm wondering if my experience is unique to me, or if this is just par for the course. I've finally got to the point where I want to replace the living room speakers that I've had since college (mid-90s). I've got Onix Rockets in the basement media room that serve us fine for home theater. I've done my research on here to check reviews and make a list of candidates.

Focal Aria 936
Focal Aria 948
KEF R700
KEF R900
Revel Performa3 F208
Revel Performa3 F206
Monitor Audio Gold GX 200
Monitor Audio Gold GX 300

So now its time to go find authorized dealers so I can listen to these things. I'm in the Rockford, IL area, so I'm probably going to have to do Milwaukee or Chicago (preference for Milwaukee) You'd think that would be easy, but no. The Revel dealer search doesn't work. The other brands may point me to dealers, but they don't always carry the line or particular speaker that I'm interested in hearing. Dealer websites are absolutely horrible. If they even have a website, they may list the brands that they carry, but rarely the lines or speakers that they have on the floor to listen to. Several of the dealers that I've been directed to don't even have standing hours, but are appointment only. They may or may not answer their phone. At this point, I'd probably be willing just to order them directly without hearing them (as I've done with the Rockets and two SVS subs), but that seems difficult or impossible for several of these lines as well.

I really just want to buy some decent speakers without having to jump through so many hoops (leaning toward the F208 based on reviews). Are my expectations out of line or is this much more difficult than it ought to be?
Axpona is coming fairly soon, April 24-26, in Rosemont, so you will get a chance to demo some of those speakers as well as many others there for sure. Last year Monitor Audio had a full spread of their speakers, and Revel, KEF, and Focal were also represented. As for Revel, if I recall correctly, last time I was at Simply Stereo in Arlington Heights, they carried Revel. If they are still around, you might given them a call to see what they have.
 

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Axpona is coming fairly soon, April 24-26, in Rosemont, so you will get a chance to demo some of those speakers as well as many others there for sure. Last year Monitor Audio had a full spread of their speakers, and Revel, KEF, and Focal were also represented. As for Revel, if I recall correctly, last time I was at Simply Stereo in Arlington Heights, they carried Revel. If they are still around, you might given them a call to see what they have.
I was at Axpona a few years ago. It was a great show but as I stated above, hotel room acoustics were not the best. I often wondered, "is it the room, the speakers or both that sound sub par?" Some speakers sounded very good to excellent but they were in larger rooms.
 

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I am hard pressed finding a bad review for any speaker. Nothing but glowing reviews 99% of the time. So you can't really go buy that either. Depends on what they sound like in your room as I've found out many times.
That is very true. Although as buzzy pointed out, that lack of any reviews could be a bad sign. I have also heard some speakers that got very good reviews that I did not care for. As you said, the only way to know for sure is to hook them up to your equipment in your own room.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Wow, lots of great responses. Glad to know I'm not alone in this. I'm not sure how some of these companies survive with their current business model. It's certainly not a model for growth.

Thanks for the heads up on Axpona. We'll see if my wife lets me hold out that long. :D

I agree that most of the reviews for these are all glowing and I've been relying more on posts that compare and contrast the speakers I'm interested in. I don't even want to go down the path of whether either of my receivers are worthy to power them, or if I'll have to invest in some external amplification. I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.

The search continues...
 
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