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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just want to get the ball rolling on a shootout I just performed. I want to get my impressions down before my audio memory begins to fail.

First, some background: My mains are a pair of Dynaudio X18s in the living room. I run them with a Yamaha AVR, Hsu VTF-2 sub, and a Pro-Ject TT. Sadly, most of my music listening is through an Apple TV (4K). Anyway, it's been a few years since I auditioned small, budget speakers for my smaller room. With all the previous generation closeouts and sales, I thought I'd see if there's been any significant changes in technology since I last shopped around for a humble system. Good news: the budget segment of the hobby has been making steady progress!

My current budget system consists of a pair of Ascend CBM-170SE's, HK 3490 stereo receiver, and a 3rd gen ATV (yes, I'm an Apple guy, please don't hurt me). I like the 170's and they won my previous shootout (check my history here for more details). Audiophile boredom set in so I decided to give it another go.

The audition list:

CBM-170 ($300)
NHT SuperOne 2.1 ($250)
Dali Zensor 1 ($400, yikes ... I know)
Hsu HB-1 ($280)
Elac B5 ($185)
WD 10.1 ($185)
Sony Core ($80)
KEF Q100 ($250)

I will post my impressions as soon as I can to avoid audio memory loss. If anyone is interested and wants more specifics, please let me know!

(To be continued...)
 

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I just want to get the ball rolling on a shootout I just performed. I want to get my impressions down before my audio memory begins to fail.

First, some background: My mains are a pair of Dynaudio X18s in the living room. I run them with a Yamaha AVR, Hsu VTF-2 sub, and a Pro-Ject TT. Sadly, most of my music listening is through an Apple TV (4K). Anyway, it's been a few years since I auditioned small, budget speakers for my smaller room. With all the previous generation closeouts and sales, I thought I'd see if there's been any significant changes in technology since I last shopped around for a humble system. Good news: the budget segment of the hobby has been making steady progress!

My current budget system consists of a pair of Ascend CBM-170SE's, HK 3490 stereo receiver, and a 3rd gen ATV (yes, I'm an Apple guy, please don't hurt me). I like the 170's and they won my previous shootout (check my history here for more details). Audiophile boredom set in so I decided to give it another go.

The audition list:

CBM-170 ($300)
NHT SuperOne 2.1 ($250)
Zensor 1 ($400, yikes ... I know)
Hsu HB-1 ($280)
Elac B5 ($185)
WD 10.1 ($185)
Sony Core ($80)
KEF Q100 ($250)

I will post my impressions as soon as I can to avoid audio memory loss. If anyone is interested and wants more specifics, please let me know!

(To be continued...)
Looking forward to your impressions.
 

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I like the 170's and they won my previous shootout (check my history here for more details). Audiophile boredom set in so I decided to give it another go.
Couldn't find a definitive list of what you actually tested in your last shootout; can you list it or a link to the thread?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Couldn't find a definitive list of what you actually tested in your last shootout; can you list it or a link to the thread?
Sure! It was a long time ago, but I do remember the broad strokes, so I don't mind answering questions about them.

This will probably be a trip down budget memory lane for many here:

Ascend CBM-170
Ascend HTM-200
Energy RC10
Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2
Pioneer BS41
Infinity Primus P142/P362
Polk M70
Monitor Audio BX1
Music Hall Marimba
CA S30

And BTW, thanks for making me go back through my old posts! That was a truly painful and cringe-worthy experience :eek:.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Alright, so let's get into it.

I tested the speakers in a small sitting room. The room is about 15' x 25'. I've found that smaller bookshelves can pressurize the space relatively well. I've never had success with 4" drivers, though. This includes the HTM-200 with it's 2 drivers, but the enclosure was sealed, so that's expected. I've even set up a sealed 12" Emotiva sub in this room. It sounded great, but I never found it necessary, so I ended up selling it so save some space and money.

The speakers are on Sanus steel stands about 7 ft apart, and about 2 ft from the the back wall. The various tweeters all sit about 36 inches high, which is essentially ear-height at the MLP which is about 12 ft away. I have an area rug covering hardwood with simple drywall walls and ceiling.

I would consider this a bright and lively room. I've treated the right side of the speakers with heavy drapes on the wall, covering a window. The other side opens up into the rest of the space. Moving the speakers into a bedroom has calmed the brightness and sharpness with every speaker I've owned. I'm powering these with a HK 3490 stereo DAC/AMP. It provides 120 watts into 8 ohms which has been verified by 3rd party measurements. I bought it refurbished on Harmon's eBay storefront. Sources include my DVR and a 3rd gen AppleTV. Everything is digital and I don't have any analog sources in this set-up.

The music review material consisted of a combo of FLAC albums imported into iTunes using XLD and ALAC format and Spotify. Spotify was used only to test compressed music. Streaming video sources include my DVR, Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Ripped blu-ray sources are losslessly streamed from my NAS unit using VLC. Music genres include: Classical, Jazz, Hip-hop, Pop, Metal, Modern Rock, Classic Rock, Electronic, and Alternative. I have some vocal albums, as well, but I don't regularly listen to them.

I'll review the monitors in no particular order. I'll provide some comparisons, but I'd prefer to review in a simple pro/con format. All these speakers had their own unique merits and none were perfect. I'm just an amateur enthusiast, so hopefully my impressions make sense to the more experienced dignitaries. I'll also post some conclusions at the end. I don't really want to declare a "winner" though. I suppose you could say that there is a "winner" for me, but we all know how subjective these things are.

I can either edit the OP with my impressions or I can just continue in the next post. If anyone has a preference let me know, along with any other suggestions or questions. I will try to get the impressions up tonight, but if not, they will be up tomorrow.

One last thing, I'd like to thank the community at large, for helping me pick out some real competitive monitors. I'm sure any one of these could make the right listener very happy.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Monitors still desired but not tested:

WD Diamond 220
WD Denton
KEF Q150
KEF LS50 (not budget, but I'd love to compare to my Dyns)

Current prices are still typical for current lineup offerings. I imagine prices for these will drop once previous gen units are gone and the next gens are announced. I will still be on the lookout for deals though.
 

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I'm interested to hear how the Sony cores did! I saw a pair at best buy and had to do a double take....much much different animal in person then in pictures lol.
 

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Monitors still desired but not tested:

WD Diamond 220
WD Denton
KEF Q150
KEF LS50 (not budget, but I'd love to compare to my Dyns)

Current prices are still typical for current lineup offerings. I imagine prices for these will drop once previous gen units are gone and the next gens are announced. I will still be on the lookout for deals though.
These are all good speakers, I recently had Diamond 220 and had the LS50 and Q150 these past 2 weekends to try out, I have a thread comparing them. The Q150 are a great speaker, I think a lot of people are going to like them for their laid back sound. Another good speaker right now that I saw is the Def Tech SM45 for $125, I think they are closing them out.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
These are all good speakers, I recently had Diamond 220 and had the LS50 and Q150 these past 2 weekends to try out, I have a thread comparing them. The Q150 are a great speaker, I think a lot of people are going to like them for their laid back sound. Another good speaker right now that I saw is the Def Tech SM45 for $125, I think they are closing them out.
Your thread was the inspiration for adding the Q150!! I've heard the LS50 at BB in horrible listening conditions so I'd really need to take them home and A/B them with my Dyns. It seems like comparing the 10.1s to the 220s really comes down to personal preferences. Your thread was a big help and inspiration!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm interested to hear how the Sony cores did! I saw a pair at best buy and had to do a double take....much much different animal in person then in pictures lol.
I bought them with zero expectations going in. At that price, I just decided (at the last second and on a whim) to take a pair home along with the Q100s. It was a total impulse buy, but I'm glad I did it.
 

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Your thread was the inspiration for adding the Q150!! I've heard the LS50 at BB in horrible listening conditions so I'd really need to take them home and A/B them with my Dyns. It seems like comparing the 10.1s to the 220s really comes down to personal preferences. Your thread was a big help and inspiration!
Glad I could be of help, I didn't really like the LS50 at the store either. I'd like to grab some Q100 to compare to the Q150 but I've been trying so many speakers lately that I really need to slow down.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Glad I could be of help, I didn't really like the LS50 at the store either. I'd like to grab some Q100 to compare to the Q150 but I've been trying so many speakers lately that I really need to slow down.
I couldn't agree more with all of that. At a certain point, you just have to throw in the towel and enjoy what you have. But auditioning can be so fun and addictive! Audiophilia curses us with the "grass is always greener" effect. Essentially that little voice saying: "But maybe THAT speaker I've never heard before is perfect for me!"
 

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I just want to get the ball rolling on a shootout I just performed. I want to get my impressions down before my audio memory begins to fail.

First, some background: My mains are a pair of Dynaudio X18s in the living room. I run them with a Yamaha AVR, Hsu VTF-2 sub, and a Pro-Ject TT. Sadly, most of my music listening is through an Apple TV (4K). Anyway, it's been a few years since I auditioned small, budget speakers for my smaller room. With all the previous generation closeouts and sales, I thought I'd see if there's been any significant changes in technology since I last shopped around for a humble system. Good news: the budget segment of the hobby has been making steady progress!

My current budget system consists of a pair of Ascend CBM-170SE's, HK 3490 stereo receiver, and a 3rd gen ATV (yes, I'm an Apple guy, please don't hurt me). I like the 170's and they won my previous shootout (check my history here for more details). Audiophile boredom set in so I decided to give it another go.

The audition list:

CBM-170 ($300)
NHT SuperOne 2.1 ($250)
Dali Zensor 1 ($400, yikes ... I know)
Hsu HB-1 ($280)
Elac B5 ($185)
WD 10.1 ($185)
Sony Core ($80)
KEF Q100 ($250)

I will post my impressions as soon as I can to avoid audio memory loss. If anyone is interested and wants more specifics, please let me know!

(To be continued...)
i have the 10.1s & the q100s Very much looking forward to the results...been thinking about getting nht classic 3's ... and also considering the super one 2.1s...... they were described as similar to the q100's by a reviewer on this forum(bclark)...btw my prediction is the kefs will impress in 2.1 much more than 2.0
 
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I own Dyns and DALIs, I have the Concept 1 which were replaced by the Zensors, we use them in our bedroom, but when I bring them downstairs into my reference system they’re quite impressive for $400 speakers. Bass response is good which is important because we do not have a subwoofer in the bedroom, but I never feel anything is lacking. In my reference system they sound a little boxy, but comparing to $5k speakers I don’t expect them to be perfect.
I heard the Kef LS50 in a demo and also heard the S1.4 at the same time and was really unimpressed by the LS50. Mid-range was good highs were decent, but zero low-end. Perhaps they’re great for small ensembles but that’s not what I listen to. Ive never really liked the 1.4s in the past but by comparison (and I know they’re almost twice as much), they just did so much much better.
I briefly had some Paradigm Atom V6s but everyone liked the DALIs better so I sold the Paradigms.
Good luck with the search!
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
I own Dyns and DALIs, I have the Concept 1 which were replaced by the Zensors, we use them in our bedroom, but when I bring them downstairs into my reference system they’re quite impressive for $400 speakers. Bass response is good which is important because we do not have a subwoofer in the bedroom, but I never feel anything is lacking. In my reference system they sound a little boxy, but comparing to $5k speakers I don’t expect them to be perfect.
I heard the Kef LS50 in a demo and also heard the S1.4 at the same time and was really unimpressed by the LS50. Mid-range was good highs were decent, but zero low-end. Perhaps they’re great for small ensembles but that’s not what I listen to. Ive never really liked the 1.4s in the past but by comparison (and I know they’re almost twice as much), they just did so much much better.
I briefly had some Paradigm Atom V6s but everyone liked the DALIs better so I sold the Paradigms.
Good luck with the search!
I have a truly cavernous living area that opens up to both the second story, as well as the dining area. Small speakers (the Dalis being the smallest in the group) have never worked there which is why I rarely move small bookshelves in there to listen. Although, maybe I should!! BTW, this is the reason I elected for the x18s even if the x14s might measure better in the mids. I think the x18s beat every speaker I've owned thus far. To be fair though, I've never owned $5k speakers!! :eek:

I auditioned the Dynaudio Contour 20 and they were absolutely lovely. There were just unfortunately beyond my budget. The X18s are a little more forward than the C20s and but don't possess the delicacy of the latter. I'd gladly (one day) move up the Dyn chain. I have to mirror your thoughts about the LS50s, but I'd still need to hear them in my room before I make a true declaration about them. I've enjoyed following you guys in the Dynaudio Owner's Thread, even If I don't have much to contribute beyond the odd question here and there.

Cheers!
 

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I have a truly cavernous living area that opens up to both the second story, as well as the dining area. Small speakers (the Dalis being the smallest in the group) have never worked there which is why I rarely move small bookshelves in there to listen. Although, maybe I should!! BTW, this is the reason I elected for the x18s even if the x14s might measure better in the mids. I think the x18s beat every speaker I've owned thus far. To be fair though, I've never owned $5k speakers!! :eek:

I auditioned the Dynaudio Contour 20 and they were absolutely lovely. There were just unfortunately beyond my budget. The X18s are a little more forward than the C20s and but don't possess the delicacy of the latter. I'd gladly (one day) move up the Dyn chain. I have to mirror your thoughts about the LS50s, but I'd still need to hear them in my room before I make a true declaration about them. I've enjoyed following you guys in the Dynaudio Owner's Thread, even If I don't have much to contribute beyond the odd question here and there.

Cheers!
My living room is probably similar to yours it’s 25Lx15W open to the second story and the back 10 ft is a dining area. The DALI Concept 1 doesn’t have the authority of the Dynaudio Focus 260s but it’s quite good in the large room on its own merits.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
So here are my general impressions of this group. Not a lemon in the bunch and they could all work for the right listener depending on their preferences.

So, let's do it:

CBM-170 ($300)

These ended up being my preferred set the last time I did a round of in-home auditions. These are my reference speakers, in fact. Not because they are ruler flat (even though they basically are!), but because I am most familiar with them.

These have the most gradual treble lift I've ever heard. From the midbass to the high treble, we are talking maybe a 2db rise! The linearity of this speaker is rivaled only by the Q100. When I say linear, I don't mean flat. I mean the FR is straight and smooth and without major glitches. These, to me, sound juuuuuuust north of neutral. I would never classify these as bright though. These are dead neutral, with just a little more mids than bass, and a little more treble than mids.

The transition from bass, to mids, to trebles is totally seamless. I've had these for years and would recommend them to anyone looking for this kind of sound signature. The cabinet sounds a little hollow. The fit and finish is very poor compared to these other offerings. Simple vinyl wrap over a cube box. No branding anywhere on the baffle, even the grill.

There is no deep bass rumble or midbass kick to speak of. This results in very clean mids. Maybe the cleanest mids I've heard only slightly marred by the 1-2db treble rise. Most sensitive speaker of the bunch by a large margin. These can't play loud enough. I prefer this speaker with movies and TV rather than music in 2.0. With a sub, these are hard to beat if you like the sound signature. In my bright room, however, these add just a bit too much high-end, for my tastes.

These have very accurate imaging, at the expense of a somewhat flat soundstage.

PRO: Most sensitive speaker in the group. Very clear, linear mids. No boomy bass. Imaging is very accurate.
CON: Unattractive cabinet. Cabinet somewhat hollow sounding. Soundstage has more width than depth or height. A hair above neutral. Mids slightly dry and thin (clinical).


NHT SuperOne 2.1 ($250)

Only the third sealed box I've ever heard. The first was my Dad's old Wharfedale W45's. The second was a pair a Ascend HTM-200's. The cabinet is gorgeous on these assuming you like glossy and shiny. Good heft to the speaker and the rap test passes admirably for such a large bookshelf.

Let's talk about the bass first. More upper bass than mid or sub bass. I assume this is due to the sealed configuration. I quite like the bass on this since the room is small and some deep room nodes were being excited.

The mids were likewise impressive if a little forward. I'd say they were about even with the upper bass.

Now the treble. Oh boy. I can't explain it, but these had the most treble of any speaker in the group. I'm positive my room is to blame for this. But, for whatever reason, the treble coming out of these wasn't to my taste. Too sharp and piercing in my room. This, coupled with low sensitivity (again it's sealed remember) made it necessary to turn up the volume which only exacerbated the issue. Music sounded best with these and quite lovely at times. Movies were a little sibilant and TV was almost unwatchable. Every time a female actor began to speak, I'd start to grit my teeth in anticipation. This wasn't good. These were the first to go back, sadly.

These clearly follow the Fletcher–Munson Loudness Contours tuning philosophy. In other words, they have boost at 100Hz, 1kHz, and again at 10kHz. It looks like a tri-humped camel of sorts. My old Music Hall Marimbas also followed this design choice but with better results, IMO. They had a tamer treble compared to these but still a little too hot and spitty. This type of FR sounds great at low-volumes. It's when you crank it, that it can induce some serious ear fatigue.

I really want to hear some of NHT's higher offerings, especially the C3 if it's overall flatter.

PRO: Gorgeous cabinet. Wonderful deep bass in a small room. Nice, forward mids. Very enjoyable for classical and jazz. Great low-volume listening.
CONS: Not much punch or kick to the mid and upper bass. Glossy finish not for everyone. Sibilance, especially with TV and movies. Not recommended for loud listening.

Dali Zensor 1 ($400, yikes ... I know)

Ahhh, another F-M tonal design choice! Once again, these are great at low-volumes. These are the smallest bookshelves in the test. I measured the woofer, and it too was the smallest.

Now, here is where none of that matters: the bass is great! Wow! How did Dali get this much bass out of something this small? Did it have the most bass? No. It might have even had the least! But that doesn't matter because the quality is there for something so small. Lots of punch and even some rumble. Love the bass on these.

The red "wood" fibre cone is beautiful. The cabinet is solid. The finish is pristine. $400 gets you something nice to look at that's for sure.

The mids are wonderful. They are dead even with the bass and just trail the treble. Overall, these are pretty neutral. Calling them warm or bright wouldn't really be accurate at low-volumes.

Now to the treble. These have the same issues as the NHTs and the old Marimbas. Great at low volume, but beware that things get rougher in a bright room when you turn it up. Sometimes they sounded great and sometimes the sibilance was too much. Again, my room is to blame for this.

I'm not done gushing on these quite yet. The soundstage is incredible! Deep, wide, and TALL. I was amazed by the height of the soundstage. The F-M curve no doubt trades perfect imaging for a holographic soundstage here. The 3D soundscape is very addictive and is only rivaled by the 10.1s.

However, for $400, I had to let these go. I was able to find better, for cheaper.

PRO: Above average sensitivity. Compact size. Nice cabinet and finish. Very tall soundstage. Amazing bass for the size. Neutral mids. Good for low-volume dialogue and music.
CON: The treble is well above the mids. At moderate to loud volumes, the highs can spit and tizz at little. Relatively pricey.

Hsu HB-1 mk2 ($280)

The most unique monitors in the group. An aluminum dome tweeter sits behind a clear plastic phase plug, housed in a plastic satin black CD horn. Much like the CBM-170s, these things can take gobs of power. I don't think they ever flinched at any volume level. This was impressive. Surprisingly, these aren't very sensitive, despite the horn.

The cabinets are beyond belief. They look much better person and are as solid as a rock. I'm very impressed.

The bass is very linear. They have an even amount of mid and upper bass. They also have moderate amounts of punch and kick. Very well-tuned bass on these. The downside? They have very little deep bass. This is actually touted as a benefit for use with a sub, for which they are designed. I'm sure not having much power-sucking sub-bass is a big reason for the extremely high power-handling. I imagine integrating these with a sub of any size would be easy as pie.

My first revelation with these came immediately. Forget what you think you know about horns. These aren't bright, shrill, piercing, fatiguing, or at all. In fact, these are quite the opposite. The mids are the most laid-back of the group! Whoa! Not what I expected from a horn tweeter at all. The mids are well behind the tweeter, but in a smooth silky kind of way. I'm really having a hard time describing these. At times, these are laid back to the point of almost being muffled. I wouldn't, however, describe them as dark either. I think it's the upper mids that are missing here. The tweeter seems perfectly in line with the rest of mids and the lower mids as well. It's the upper mids that obviously get shortchanged. This created an almost "hollow" or "cave" effect to my ears. This forced me to turn the volume up, which the HB-1's obliged with fervor. However, the tone never changed.

An example to illustrate my point, hopefully: In movies and tv there is something called ADR. ADR is when dialogue is recorded in a studio to replace that of on-set audio. This happens for a variety of reasons which isn't necessary to explain here. This is also the reason why animation and effects sound so good in animation and much less so in location shooting. Anyway, this ADR dialogue usually sounds a little clearer, a little more "studio quality" for lack of a better term. Sometimes a scene will actually alternate between dialogue picked up by a boom mic and that recorded in a studio. Well, this is the first pair of speakers I've listened to where this actually bothered me. These are SO laid-back that any dialogue not recorded in the studio sounded muffled and far-away. Then, ADR would kick in and everything sounded great again. Now, you can hear this on any tv show/movie but for some reason these Hsu's emphasized this difference so much that it took me right out of whatever I was watching. It was a bizarre phenomenon. Clearly, there are limits to a laid-back sound and I might have just found it in my room with the HB-1s.

I really like the tweeter on these. I will no longer judge a tweeter by it's a material (see KEF Q100, below). It's smooth, even, and right in line with the lower mids and mids proper. Nothing remotely fatiguing about these.

Holy smokes soundstage! These throw out an enormous soundstage! As tall and wide as I've heard. Everything is laid-back so not much depth, however. I think here is where the horn is shining. Just a wall of sound which I like very much. Go too far off-axis and, yes, things collapse more than usual, but the sweet spot is huge so this may or may not matter.

Alas, if only these had a little more upper mids.

PRO: Looks great. Impressive cabinetry. Amazingly smooth highs. Extremely tall and wide soundstage. Tight bass. Fatigue-free sound. Can take gobs of power.
CON: Not much depth to soundstage. No deep bass to speak of. Laid-back to the point of muffling some dialogue. Low sensitivity (maybe due to laid-back tonality?).

Elac B5 ($185)

I've been curious about these for some time. Deep waveguide for some CD. Clean cabinet. This is a no-frills box, but still looks good. Unfortunately, the box is too lively. I can actually feel it vibrate. Does this impart an unwanted tone of the speaker? I can't really tell, but there is something in the mids that seems to resonate ever so slightly. This bookshelf could use a sturdier cabinet without a doubt. From my couch, this was no concern, luckily. But I wouldn't want to turn these up too loud or else the box "might" amplify the mids some. This is all conjecture of course. But, putting my ear close to and my hand on the cabinet while playing did not inspire confidence.

Right off the bat, these are dark. They just are. Anyone looking for this sound signature would be crazy not to audition. Bass is the emphasis here with the mids and highs trailing far behind.

The bass is unrivaled in the group. Strong, punchy, and yet very smooth. No need for a sub. I love the bass on the B5s.

I wouldn't call the mids laid-back per se, but they are behind the bass and can sound muffled. The uppermost treble even sounds ahead of the mids. I'm guessing there is a subtle u-shape somewhere in the FR. Or, maybe the tweeter just loses steam and mids can't keep up with the lower treble. Either way, these have a unique sound and if dark is what you are after, these are for you. The overall tone is very even, however, and they sound, as I assume, perfectly as designed.

Imaging and soundstage are both average. Nothing really stands out which is a good thing. The deep waveguide might be responsible for very symmetrical soundstage and imaging.

The questionable cabinet and the dark tone forced me to eventually return these as well.

PRO: DEEP POWERFUL BASS. Easy listening. Just enough sparkle to make things interesting. Simple, minimalist cabinet. Very symmetrical soundstage and imaging.
CON: Dark tone. Dialogue often muffled. Treble can sound disconnected from the rest of the spectrum on occasion. Thin cabinet.

WD 10.1 ($185)

Gorgeous right out of the box. Curved side panels and a glossy baffle with metallic rings around the drivers look fantastic. Cabinet has good heft but a rap test reveals a higher pitch than i would prefer. I wasn't aware of any resonances during testing though.

Let's just cut to the chase: MIDS!!!!! These have the sillkiest, lushest mids of the group by far. They are so sweet and liquid. It's quite mesmerizing. In my room, to my ears, these have the most addictive mids. It's not really even close. They are both clear and warm which is very hard to describe. Warm and sweet is about as accurate as it gets. They aren't laid-back or forward. Most neutral mids in this room. Okay let's move on...

Bass. It's there. Not very deep. More mid bass than upper. Maybe the slightest bit disconnected from the mids but this only shows on certain recordings. However, they can PARTY. The bass might be north of neutral but it adds a certain fun factor that can't be denied. Any more bass, and I wouldn't like it. But to me, they have just the right amount and complement the mids perfectly.

Treble. The best upper mids and low treble in the test. Not laid-back or forward. They are very clear and smooth. Is this a v-shaped speaker? Maybe? Would the 220's fix any of these very small issues? They might. But they might lose the magic too. I might have to find out one day.

They have an enveloping and 3D soundstage. More depth than any other speaker in my room. Height and width are above average as well. My preferred soundstage with the Z1's coming in second. Imaging is average at best.

What can I say? These were the speakers that made me find another album to listen to in iTunes or Spotify. They got my head noddin' and my foot tappin'. Take that how you will. Better for music than movies.

PRO: 3D soundstage. Fun, punchy bass. Luscious, warm mids. Nice finish.
CON: Imaging just decent. Not much deep bass. Highs can oversparkle very rarely.

Sony Core ($80)

I mean, why not? I picked these up on my way out of BB on a whim. Cheapest in the test group. Cabinet is subpar. It's noisy. I actually heard the resonance on certain vocals which is something I've not experienced before.

Tonally these are great. I'd say these are neutral with some warmth. Don't worry about any fatigue with these.

Just for kicks, I took my life into my own hands, and put my ear up to the supertweeter. Nothing. Can I hear that high? Who knows. Was it adding anything to the sound? Again, I didn't hear anything but maybe. I think the money for the supertweeter would have been better spent on an improved cabinet. The baffle is a little busy looking.

For a single Ben Franklin, I doubt there is anything out there much better. Maybe something from Parts Express or Monoprice can be found cheaper but will it sound better? My guess is no.

PRO: Price. Neutral tone.
CON: Cabinet resonance. Supertweeter might be a gimmick.

KEF Q100 ($250)

Finally, a coaxial. Waveguide? Check? Aluminum drivers? Check. Front port? Check. Point-source? Check.

That's ticking a lot of boxes!!!!!!

I love these things. They look WAY better in person. I love the looks. Sleek, modern, and simple. Cabinet on par with the Diamonds. Sensitivity is above average.

The bass on these is unreal. Do they possess any mid or upper bass emphasis? Nope. What about deep bass? There is no way a 5" coax can have deep bass, right? Wrong. They got bass. They got rumble. How? No idea but it's there. I could totally live with the bass these put out. Ok onward...

Here's the thing: you can't separate the mids and the highs on these. Apart from the 170s, these have got to be the most linear budget speakers I've heard. Are they flat? No, not even close, but I'll get to that in a sec. From deep bass to upper treble it sounds like a straight line to me. Each octave blends into the next seamlessly and effortlessly. There is no frequency disconnect that I can hear. Amazing.

Next: Imaging!! Must be the coax drivers at play. Best imaging in the group by a country mile. Left-to-Right stereo panning is flawless. Very accurate. The only downside is this cripples the soundstage. Not high at all. No depth. Width is average. Get these for best-in-class imaging on a budget. The soundstage will be accurate, but not expansive.

Tone is where these fail for me in my room. They are bright. Brighter than the Ascends. There is an audible treble tilt. Now, that tilt is crazy smooth and linear. For a brighter sound signature, pick these without hesitation. But, are they too bright? In my room, yes. Barely, but yes. In a more damped room, these would likely be keepers. I'm so impressed with what KEF has achieved here. A more neutral Q100 would be my holy grail budget speaker. That coax is the real deal.

Ultimately, however, these proved to be just too thin, sterile, and dry for my tastes. Cymbals were always out in front. These are forward, bright speakers, but the best forward, bright speakers I've heard. Get these if you have problems hearing dialogue.

PRO: Great looking. Deep bass. Linear response and super smooth. Perfect for making dialogue clear. IMAGING like a beast!!!
CON: Just one: Too bright and forward in my room.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
This was a fun test and it might not be over. I still want to hear the new RBH Impression series. I'm also intrigued by the WD 220's and the KEF Q150's. QA 3020's would be an option as well.

But, for now, I'm satisfied with this current shootout. If I add anymore speakers to this group, I will certainly post my impressions of those as well. Please feel free to shoot me any questions you have, and I'll do my best to answer!
 
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I have a vested interest in the Sony Core's since I also bought them on sale :) Can you post more about them, were they able to play loud without distortion compared to the others, soundstage etc? Your impressions of these were the shortest which I understand since you just got them on a whim.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I have a vested interest in the Sony Core's since I also bought them on sale :) Can you post more about them, were they able to play loud without distortion compared to the others, soundstage etc? Your impressions of these were the shortest which I understand since you just got them on a whim.
Sure. I was pleasantly surprised by the Cores. I really was. They nailed a neutral tone which is quite rare for a budget speaker. I'm not even sure the Cores can be called budget. I'm not sure anything else really competes at this price point.

The Cores were able to get plenty loud in my room. I didn't hear any distortion from the drivers at the levels I listen to.

I'd say the bass, mids, and treble all play in concert. I don't hear any over-emphasis which is quite remarkable.

Soundstage is more 3D than large. Good width, height, and depth. None of the three really stood out as being dominant which is a very good thing. If anything, the width and depth might be more noticeable than the height. I'd compare it favorably to the Elac's soundstage. Just overall very solid.

Imaging is good as well. Above average. I really can't say that the imaging was any better or worse than the soundstage. Everything sounded where it should be. It didn't have the pinpoint accuracy of the KEFs but, then again, none of them did.

The cores really only have two downsides for me: the cabinet is thin and limits how loud it can get, and the supertweeter might not accomplish much. But, for less than a hundy, I really can't think of a better alternative.

Hope this helps. Let me know if there is something else more specific you are after.
 
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