I just auditioned...

Ben Jammin

Active Member
Hi All

I've been tempted by some new speakers recently and decided to take my own advise and audition first. just returned from an enjoyable morning at Deco Audio in Aylesbury, thought i'd share my experience.

Using the excellent Rega Brio 3 Amp and Rega Apollo CDP I auditioned the following speakers:

Q Acoustics 2050 - £380
Rega RS5 - £998
Audio Note AZ2H (Hemp Cone) - £1250
ProAc Studio 140 mk2 - £1690

My demo CD included songs from:

Arcade Fire
Beatles
Elbow
Fischerspooner
Glasvegas
Johnny Cash
Kings Of Leon
Massive Attack
Miike Snow
Radiohead
Sigur Ros
UNKLE

I tried to listen at a low volume to keep it realistic for what it would really be like at home, but turned it up ocassionally to compare the improvement, all the speakers improved at about the same rate when turning them up.

All speakers were good in their own way of course but one stood out for me as a little bit special. I will get to that in a minute:

Q Acoustics 2050

Nice looking in gloss white. The sound was good... it was.. fine. If somebody wanted to order a pair of speakers that would do a decent job with most kinds of music and never sound poor, i wouldn't steer them away from these. Voices were clear, bass was good, the music sounded well structured, they were capable of going very loud without much bother. However, that's where the praise from me ends, they weren't exciting at all and to be honest i'd rather listen to my tiny £100 Whafedale Diamond 9.1's.

Rega RS5

These looked lovely real wood cherry and remarkably small. Sound was a marked improvement, Johnny Cash's flowing music sounded more like it should (not flat), i was struck by individual notes more but most importantly, the music was much more enjoyable, faster, went higher and lower, filled the room more easily. I was still now blown away though, and for a £1000 speaker, i expect to be blown away. I was expecting to love these as the RS1 were amazing but lacked bass. I was disappointed and would rather have the RS1 i think. more agile.

Audio Note AZ2H (Hemp Cone)

New range for Audio Note apparently. These speakers use a hemp cone and designed to work in the corner of the room. I was dubious. They were also ugly, barely disguised chipboard, seemingly no design considerations at all but hey, they're meant for listening.

Within 2 minutes of sitting down to listen i noticed i had quietly whispered the word "wow" to myself lol, don't think i've ever said that before. I noticed i'd stopped flicking through songs to analyse how they do with different sounds. The midrange of johnny cash was a thing of beauty, voices were markedly clear and i stopped hearing the bass, but felt it. The bass was quite moderate but i felt it as part of the music rather than heard it as a seperate beat. The music seemed to fill the room more easily rather than just come from the speaker and i was surprised to hear a few sounds i'd never heard before on cheaper speakers.

They weren't perfect, the ProAc's below beat them in some ways but importantly i enjoyed listening to music and stopped thinking about the other things, i guess that's the best measurement.

ProAc Studio 140 mk2

These were taller than i thought, the bass port is at the bottom! Very beautiful real wood veneer finish. Instant impression was very good and i thought they blew the Audio Notes away but the more i listened the more i missed the Audio Notes. The ProAc's were very impressive technically, the bass was thumping, the high notes incredibly clear and the whole music held together very well, but the midrange wasn't quite as fun as the Audio Notes. It was a close call, took me about an hour to decide but listening to The Beatles (Get Back, Come Together and the Continuing story of Bungalow Bill) finally sealed it for me. On the Audio Notes i find myself randomly dancing. ProAc's sounded impressive but somehow made Beatles a little boring.

General Ramblings

Interestingly Radiohead sounded amazing on all the speakers tested. All of them seemed to struggle recreating Elbow to my satisfaction. UNKLE sounded poor on Q Acoustics and Rega but great on the two more expensive ones.

I didn't buy the Audio Note's because they are designed for corner placement and i'm moving house in 2 months so will see if they will fit then. I miss them already but thoroughly enjoyed my listening, it's proven to me again how absolutely vital it is to listen to speakers before buying.

Many many thanks to Peter and Mark at Deco Audio, great guys, very patient and friendly and knowledgable.
 
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Mr Pig

Novice Member
Interesting stuff, thank you.

You employ exactly the same criteria as I do, involvement, expression and fun are the most important aspects of the performance. Many people get hung up on lack of colouration but, in a domestic setting, all systems are coloured and you get used to the colourations very quickly and ignore them. If a system is dull and boring it will stay dull and boring no matter how long you have it!
 

stasis

Active Member
hi, Nice post, good to read how you auditioned the speakers. I am thinking of splashing out next year for new fronts with the emphasis on stereo.
The difficulty seems to be finding a dealer that covers all your candidates.
regards stasis.
 

Ben Jammin

Active Member
Thanks for the replies. Missing the Audio Note's already :)

Might try audition at another dealer with different brands in stock to be sure.
 

Ben Jammin

Active Member
Me again, i just returned from Technosound in Milton Keynes and they kindly let me audition some speakers. They were very nice but i did feel a tiny bit rushed and pressured to buy (cant blame them, i didn't buy anything and spent a while.) I auditioned:

Monitor Audio RX1 - £415
B&W CM5 - £799
PMC DB1i - £1050
PMC TB2i - £1350


Music i listened to was mostly Johnny Cash, Joy Division, The Killers, Kings of Leon, The Knife, Radiohead and UNKLE. I listened to the speakers in this order:

PMC DB1i

It was like being hit in the face with a wall of sound. For some time i couldn't fault them at all, they were amazing, it was like a rock band was playing infront of me. I enjoyed for a while, but felt i should try something else just to be sure they weren't perfect.

B&W CM5

I was instantly struck by the clarity of these, everything was stupidly clear and seperate. The bass didn't punch me in the chest so much but i don't mind that. I found myself listening to individual sounds rather than actually enjoying the music though, and the sounds came from the speaker rather than filled the room. I don't think the midrange is a priority for these speakers, so i moved on.

PMC TB2i

Again, instantly amazed by these, literally assualted by the instruments as if i could touch them. However, it suddenly occurred to me what was wrong with the PMC's for me. Voices. Voices just weren't that clear, they seemed almost drowned in the music. Maybe that's accurate, i'm not sure. But.. i really like listening to singers voices, especially Radiohead, and they didn't seem to have priority with PMC. If you want to feel like you're at a concert though, PMC all the way, truly truly impressive.

Monitor Audio RX1

These seemed to have a good mix of everything for me. Highs were good, lows were heavy, mid range was rich, voices were clear. They were my favourite to actually listen to but the clarity wasn't as good as the CM5 nor the music as exhilarating as the PMC.

All in all i'm left a little confused what i actually want to buy and what i actually want out of speakers! But.. hopefully my findings will prove useful to somebody.
 
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sebbyp

Novice Member
Interesting note on the Pmc's....

I had the same notion when I first bought them. Compared to my Pro-Acs and the XTZ bookeshelfs I had on loan, the midrange on the Pmc's were lacking!

However, when they warmed up the midrange opened up and I've never looked back!

They do need good amplification though, what electronics were being used?

By the way, fantastic review, really enjoyed reading!

Seb
 
I'm glad your getting a good demo of lots of different speakers.

I'm not sure if a set of £1000 speakers will be "perfect" in every area. We all have our own expectations but I've listened to speakers ten times this price that didn't fit the bill in every area.

All the speakers you've listed have there own characteristics and will all excel in some areas and fall in others.

If your also looking at stand mounts have a listen to some Dynaudio xcite x12's or x16's. Not a huge amount of bass but the mids and highs are breath taking!!

Good luck with your search :thumbsup:
 

peritus

Banned
Me again, i just returned from Technosound in Milton Keynes and they kindly let me audition some speakers. They were very nice but i did feel a tiny bit rushed and pressured to buy (cant blame them, i didn't buy anything and spent a while.) I auditioned:

Monitor Audio RX1 - £415
B&W CM5 - £799
PMC DB1i - £1050
PMC TB2i - £1350


Music i listened to was mostly Johnny Cash, Joy Division, The Killers, Kings of Leon, The Knife, Radiohead and UNKLE. I listened to the speakers in this order:

PMC DB1i

It was like being hit in the face with a wall of sound. For some time i couldn't fault them at all, they were amazing, it was like a rock band was playing infront of me. I enjoyed for a while, but felt i should try something else just to be sure they weren't perfect.

B&W CM5

I was instantly struck by the clarity of these, everything was stupidly clear and seperate. The bass didn't punch me in the chest so much but i don't mind that. I found myself listening to individual sounds rather than actually enjoying the music though, and the sounds came from the speaker rather than filled the room. I don't think the midrange is a priority for these speakers, so i moved on.

PMC TB2i

Again, instantly amazed by these, literally assualted by the instruments as if i could touch them. However, it suddenly occurred to me what was wrong with the PMC's for me. Voices. Voices just weren't that clear, they seemed almost drowned in the music. Maybe that's accurate, i'm not sure. But.. i really like listening to singers voices, especially Radiohead, and they didn't seem to have priority with PMC. If you want to feel like you're at a concert though, PMC all the way, truly truly impressive.

Monitor Audio RX1

These seemed to have a good mix of everything for me. Highs were good, lows were heavy, mid range was rich, voices were clear. They were my favourite to actually listen to but the clarity wasn't as good as the CM5 nor the music as exhilarating as the PMC.

All in all i'm left a little confused what i actually want to buy and what i actually want out of speakers! But.. hopefully my findings will prove useful to somebody.

Sounds like youve had some superb demo's

I owned the B&W CM5's and loved them as well but as you highlighted; their bass punch let me down in the end so I sold them

Ended up going to some M/A RX2's after demo'ing the B&W 685's, M/A RX1's, Dynaudio Excite 12's and 16's and the DM 2/6's and 2/7's

The RX1's and Dynaudio 2/6's were superb as were the 685's (owned them before though so just wanted a 'side by side' demo) The RX2's blew me away

Not just because they've got bags of power (with an 8" woofer it's to be expected) but for the fact that their clarity, midrange and treble detail and overall soundstage was just superb - Music was everything from Jonny Cash to Jethro Tull/Bonzo Dog to System of a Down to Royksopp etc...

If youre able to demo these then I highly recommend that you do that :)
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Interesting note on the Pmc's....

...

However, when they warmed up the midrange opened up and I've never looked back!

...

Seb

When you say "warmed up", do you mean each time you used them, or are you referring to the speaker getting broke-in, run-in, or settled-in? Meaning, once they "warmed up", they permanently stayed "warmed up"?

As to the review, very good, direct and to the point, yet conveying a real sense of the speakers.

Keep in mind, that placement can make a big difference. The CM5 moved closer to the wall might warm in the bass range. The PMC moved farther from the wall might soften the bass and allow the midrange to shine. The RX1/2 mover too close to the wall might create overbearing bass.

Then there is the for the money aspect. The CM5 are not cheap, I believe, from memory, they are about £800/pr. The RX are at £425/pr (RX1) and £525/pr (RX2) are larger speakers at a lower price. For £300 or £400 difference, it might be worth sacrificing a trace of clarity.

The PMC are in a different league, and are priced accordingly. Again, careful placement in your specific room acoustics, might help balance the bass and mids.

I had some JBL Stadium speakers which are pretty bass heavy, and they simply could not stand being 12" from the wall behind. The bass drone absolutely destroyed the midrange. Eventually I plugged the (rear) ports, and that improve the mids by softening the bass. But, I really couldn't soften it enough in my small room, so I sold them and got Diamond 9.6 which are very happy 12" from the wall behind.

The lesson learned is that bass heavy speakers need lots of room around them to sound right.

I was mightily impressed with the Focal 800 series, from smallest to largest, all stunningly clear. The Focal 836V were stunning, the music just hung in the air disembodied from amps and speakers; very impressive, and this in a small audition room with an AV receiver, though a very good one.

Though you don't notice it that much, the smaller Focal 800 are slightly lacking in bass depth, but the clarity and purity of the bass was stunning.

If I win the lottery, I would seriously consider some PMC PB1i, but YIKES!, the £6650/pr price tag could give a cardiac surgeon a heart attack.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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sebbyp

Novice Member
Sorry Steve, replying on my phone. My posts make even less sense than usual!

I bought my speakers second hand, they had been in storage no-way near room temperature. Standard warehouse.

When they were first plugged in, it was very clear they were not performing to the best. However once they warmed up and the springs within the driver loosened. They really started to performing! The thing I have learnt about speakers is that good amplification and source are key too! So would be interesting to hear what Ben used for electronics!

No need for these to warm up every time you turn your hi-fi on!

I never turn my hi-fi off though!
 

Ben Jammin

Active Member
For the last demo it was Rega Brio 3 amp and a £600 Rotel CDP of the dealers. Rega Brio 3 was only £330 but i'm very fond of it.

I'd be intrigued to try the PMC further away from the wall and with a more expensive Amp but i think i got enough idea about their sonic character. I may trade in my Brio 3 for the Brio R purely for the convinience of a remote!

I am actually missing the DB1i now to be honest, they sounded so damn good and i really enjoyed the music with them, maybe i don't need to listen out for voices so much, hmmm.

The TB2i were the reduced ex-demo pair so i think they were warmed up. Having had time to digest, i'm pretty sure preferred the DB1i, strange but true.

I really wanted to try the RX2 but they weren't in stock, i did try the RX6 briefly but didn't notice an improvement over RX1 (they don't have 8" driver though.)

Thanks for the replies all. The search continues, i may try some cheaper speakers, i really think it's so much about personal taste it's worth trying every price bracket no matter your budget. Time consuming though!
 
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Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
Oh, I love Threads like this!

You know, ones that are conducted by an open mind (and ear!) and that doesn't criticise anyone else who doesn't have what they own.

I am very fortunate in that I have managed to work my way through the PMC range from the DB1i up to the OB1i and, for me, they are my speaker brand of choice now, I can't see myself switching again unless it's further up the range beyond the OB1i.

I do think that most speakers are a series of sonic compromises, unless you've got silly money and can splash out on something designed specifically to minimise those compromises.

And it is an incredibly personal choice - I've heard a very expensive pair of Bowers & Wilkins in one system and a Linn system owned by a musician in another and both left me completely cold. I just found them lifeless and soulless.

Any excess warmth in the PMC's are reined in by the essential neutrality of the Arcam's in my system, and the OB1i has a simply fantastic midrange driver. But I also know that they're not to everyone's taste - I love my Dance and Electronica, so they suit me just fine!

But ultimately, we grow to love our systems and choices, it's mostly other people's systems or sites like this that can potentially create dissatisfaction in constantly searching for that "perfect sound".

Derek
 

sebbyp

Novice Member
I cant say to much about the Rega Brio 3, have never heard any Rega electronics. So could not say if it was doing the speakers you demo'd justice.

I can say whilst I was changing amps though, I temporarily had to use a Rotel RA-04SE (around the 300 mark). The experience is something I would not want to repeat - I soon found out its a lot of fun going up the upgrade chain but going down is not! The rotel bought the soundstage within my two speakers and lost any depth/3dness to the sound. Any sense of imaging and pin-pointing of any instruments disappeared however most of all.... Music lost its spaciousness and blackness, so you could never play it loud because it sounded like it was a wall of sound about to knock you of your seat!

If you do get another chance, try and listen to some more costly amplification! Not with just the PMC's but say your favourite selection of speakers that you had a chance to demo. All opinions!

You could happily re-arrange your budget. You would be better of having cheaper speakers but getting the full potential out of them rather then having fantastic speakers but falling over on amplification and source.

I can understand why you preferred the DB1i's. I listened to the GB1i's and the FB1i's, the FB1is had a bass problem in my listening room but also the smaller driver in the DB's and GB's does make them faster and an even wider soundstage!

Best of Luck! Research well!
 

Ben Jammin

Active Member
I bought some Q Acoustics 2020i's for £160 on a whim, i was bored of not listening to music much because of lack of speakers I can listen to at a decent volume without shaking the neighbours house down. They are very enjoyable, they will tide me over while I continue to search, or I may find i can't be bothered anymore and they are good enough, not mind blowing but you know, just sound good. What I'd really like to achieve is forget "hi-fi" and just enjoy music at decent quality.
 
Why did you not go for any of the ones you demoed?

I know you never found a perfect set of speakers but there isn't really a perfect set of speakers out there.

The ones you have bought are ok for a budget speaker but in a totally different league compared to the likes of the PMC DB1's and TB2's you listened to previously.

Your saying you want to forget hi-fi and enjoy sound quality then some of those speakers you listed would of been very close to this. The Q Acoustic's are entry level and really only the next step up from a mini system really.

I hope you don't go test drive Ferraris and lambo's and then end up buying a Mondeo? :rolleyes:
 
Q Acoustics 2050

Nice looking in gloss white. The sound was good... it was.. fine. If somebody wanted to order a pair of speakers that would do a decent job with most kinds of music and never sound poor, i wouldn't steer them away from these. Voices were clear, bass was good, the music sounded well structured, they were capable of going very loud without much bother. However, that's where the praise from me ends, they weren't exciting at all and to be honest i'd rather listen to my tiny £100 Whafedale Diamond 9.1's.

:facepalm:
 

peritus

Banned
Why did you not go for any of the ones you demoed?

I know you never found a perfect set of speakers but there isn't really a perfect set of speakers out there.

The ones you have bought are ok for a budget speaker but in a totally different league compared to the likes of the PMC DB1's and TB2's you listened to previously.

Your saying you want to forget hi-fi and enjoy sound quality then some of those speakers you listed would of been very close to this. The Q Acoustic's are entry level and really only the next step up from a mini system really.

I hope you don't go test drive Ferraris and lambo's and then end up buying a Mondeo? :rolleyes:

Fully agree

The least you could have done would have been to go for a decent pair of 2nd hand speakers such as the B&W 685's or Monitor Audio BR/BX2's / RX1's etc...

All a massive step up in sound quality re the Q 2020's!
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
In fairness to the OP, I think looking at speakers can be a bit similar to house hunting - the more properties you look at, the harder it becomes to make a definitive choice as they all have different qualities, and they tend to merge into one another if you look at too many.

He did say that he felt "bored" at not being able to listen to music much. The QA 2020's clearly were not the "best" speakers out there, but by his own reckoning they were the least "difficult" and did nothing particularly badly.

Better to have a safe and unexciting pair of £160 speakers and access to your music whilst continuing to look around, than nothing at all!

Derek
 
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Ben Jammin

Active Member
Indeed. Will probably continue looking, just wanted something in meantime so didn't want to spend much for a 'meantime.' They are far better than the 2050, not as impressive as any of the others but certainly nice to listen too. I find myself missing the PMC despite my initial reservations, i think i need to re-investigate that avenue.

p.s. - i foolishly gave the diamond 9.1's to my dad since the OP. I was using some huge Monitor Audio floorstanders from 1988, sounded awesome when loud, not so good at friendly levels. Serves me right for chopping and changing so much!
 
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