A day of auditioning speakers

symphara

Member
Hi! I went looking for speakers for the living room in the holiday house we're building, and I thought I'd share some quick subjective and very personal opinions with the forum. I am putting up a 7.1.4 system, I currently have two good Magnat THX dipoles that I will use for surround backs and a SVS SB-2000PRO subwoofer, and I was looking for the front LF, center, surrounds (have to be bookshelf speakers on stands, due to the room), and 4 Atmos in-ceiling speakers. The room is soundproofed with a room-in-room design. Movie amplification will come from my trusty Marantz 7010 with a Lyngdorf TDAI-1120 to power the fronts in HT mode, or usable for stereo listening.

Interestingly, I liked basically everything I listened to. They were all competent products. I'd have been relatively happy with any, so instead of trying to find something to be happy with, my search shifted to trying to find something special.

So, in order:

KEF R7: black, awesome looking with the black-coated drivers, not very large. Competent all-rounders, good bass but struggled with very low frequency strings which it could not fully reproduce. I got an extremely good price with the center R2c and R3 surrounds, with their 200RR-THX Atmos speakers. I just thought there was nothing really special about these speakers. But I'd be happy with them, for sure.

Audio Physic Tempo Plus: I had great hopes about these ones. They're quite expensive but the dealer had a good deal on a demo pair, piano black. They're surprisingly small (quite deep though). Fit and finish is beautiful. They run a trick in trying to sound like much bigger speakers and they mostly pull it off. Lots of bass, but I thought rather boomy. After reading mountains of Internet praise about their amazing imaging (and they use terms like "Hyper Holographic" when describing their tweeter), I honestly thought they were nothing special in this regard. Overall, a competent and beautifully made speaker, but I think overpriced. I'd be curious to hear the higher models.

Elipson Prestige 24F: they look ok, I'm not a huge fan of the diamond-shaped indentations around the drivers. They're moderately large and fairly heavy. A lot of energy, good bass. Generally speaking not so refined. Good value as they're quite a bit cheaper than most other things I've looked at.

Amphion Argon 3LS: very chic in black, they have that super-minimalistic, Nordic design. They look better in person than on their website. Interesting tech too, they're completely closed with a bass "lens" in the back. Dealer claimed they're very tolerant of wall placement. Astounding amount of bass from a relatively small speaker. There was something charming about them, but overall the sound was dark (driven by a Bryston amp) and I was afraid they'd sound a bit dull in our soundproofed room.

Quadral Chromium Style 8: the dealer really wanted to sell me Aurum Orkan 9 (which was the price range I was looking at), but he didn't have any in stock so he demo'ed the Chromiums instead, given they share the ribbon tweeter with the Orkan. These are smaller speakers, full of energy, brighter than anything I had listened to so far, I thought the bass doesn't go quite as deep as Quadral claims.

Revel F208: these are more expensive than my budget but again, the dealer had a good price for a demo pair. Immediately upon listening I formed the opinion that these were easily the most accomplished, precise speakers I heard up to that point. Visually, I didn't like them because to me they seemed old fashion, particularly in the wood-like finish the dealer had, but the sound I couldn't fault. Since at this stage we've moved to 8" (20cm) bass drivers, this shows immediately. Impressive, refined all-rounders.

Paradigm Prestige 95F: again, over my budget, but dealer had a pair of demo piano black ones so I said why not. Again, 8" bass drivers, so similar class to the Revels - lots of deep, wonderful bass. They're brighter than the Revels, I don't think quite as elegant and precise, but loads of fun. Intoxicating to listen to and very easy to drive (94dB sensitivity, 8Ohm). Beautiful and modern-looking to boot.

Then the dealer insisted we listen to speakers that had nothing to do with my particular search, being well over my budget, just for the sake of it.

Martin Logan ESL 13a: if you've never heard an electrostatic before (I had), it's worth trying. The sound is extremely precise and seems to come out of thin air, in front of you. The bass on these speakers is astonishing. At the end of the day, they essentially have built-in amplified subwoofers, so no surprise here. This kind of speaker is really made for an intimate, 1-person listening experience. There's substantial degradation once you move out of the listening position. Quite impressive though.

Paradigm Persona 3F: these speakers were reviewed here on avforums and given a 10/10, so I was quite curious. They're beautiful, to begin with, the dealer had the grey ones and honestly they're stunning, with the perforated "lenses". The sound is unique, too. It's a difference in kind. It's not about having better bass or highs. I can best describe it as moving from 2D to 3D. The sound seemed effectively holographic to me. Not only does it clearly extend to the outside left-right of the speakers, but it's clearly thick. Rather than pinpointing the instruments on a plane, as is the case with the Prestige, here you get added depth. The effect is not subtle either, it grabs instantly and doesn't let go. I'm not sure if I'd call this kind of sound reproduction "precise", but it's exhilarating for sure. I wished I had 12k to spend on them. They're definitely on the top of my list for the main speaker upgrade, whenever that happens.

Initially I had decided to wait and try the Amphions with my own amp, and see if class D amplification will open them up a little bit, and listen to the Aurums as well, once the dealer got a pair in stock. But the Paradigm dealer made me a very good offer on the 95H system, and I ended up getting that. I figured they'll be really good for movies too, which will realistically be the majority of their use.
 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
And of course all of that could change in your room :)

In my experience the least ‘impressive’ often make the best long term choice.

Are you doing projection or a TV?

No Swiss brands on your list :)

Joe
 

symphara

Member
And of course all of that could change in your room :)

In my experience the least ‘impressive’ often make the best long term choice.

Are you doing projection or a TV?

No Swiss brands on your list :)

Joe
Not building in Switzerland! It would be ruinously expensive...

I’m not into projectors. I will get one of these 85" Sony LCDs.
 
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