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Speaker round-up review £250-£400 range

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by WhyAyeMan, Feb 1, 2003.

  1. WhyAyeMan

    Well-known Member

    Jul 4, 2002
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    OK, as promised here is my review of the speakers that I was interested in. I needed to find a replacement speaker for my Wharfedale Diamonds, something that would suit my needs better, and also, as a result, a good opportunity for a good upgrade.

    The speakers auditioned were the B&W 602 S3, KEF Q1, Mission M51 and Quad 11L's.

    The speakers were reviewed on the end of a Rotel RA-02 amplifier.

    First up, the KEF Q1's. I would have been quite happy with these speakers on the end of this amplifier. The bass was relatively good in the context of this system, the treble somewhat laid back, but quite detailed, and free of any boxiness. However, it was possible to get these speakers to go very, very loud indeed.

    Next up, were the Mission M51's. These comfortably blitzed the KEF's, they were more detailed, had quite a forward presentation, yet avoiding to be too bright, and the bass, quite simply, is extremely surprising for the size of the box. Not only did it dig deep for such small speakers, but the bass was fast as hell. Not only that, they did a good job of filling even the relatively large room with sound.

    Next up, the B&W 602 S3. Between them and the Missions it was a very close thing, but the B&W seemed slightly more grainy than the Missions in the treble, but also it was slightly more detailed still. The bass had impressive clout, and so it should. The 40 watt Rotel powered these with relative ease, but it did not quite seem to do things with quite the same authority as the Missions, probably due to the Mission being a slightly less demanding load. Having said that, it certainly wouldnt have been apparent if I hadnt have listened to the Missions. They were brighter than the Missions too, not neccesarily a bad thing particularly, but I felt the Missions were bright enough. Sure enough, Isaac's impression that they needed some volume to come on song was very true though, they sounded disappointing at low volumes. They were huge too, and I dont think they would have been suitable for a small room like mine. However, in a large room, and with a bit of volume, they did sound "big".

    Switching back to the Missions for a moment, it became apparent that the little Missions actually sounded almost as big, which was a surprise. I definetly preferred the Missions in this case.

    Finally, the Quads. Now, what can I say about these? They simply didnt float my boat whatsoever. In a hifi sense of the word, they were superb to be fair, but I felt the system synergy between these speakers and the Rotel was not there. The bass seemed slow, the treble far too laid back, and they lacked musicality. The guy in the shop seemed to think that what I heard was what I would get with just about any amp. Basically, slow, thin, hollow bass, and a small sound played its part in me actually disliking these speakers, which wasnt expected. Unbelievably, I preferred the Diamond 8.2s, which are 1/3 of the price, which seemed to have a "bigger" sound to me, probably due to the size of the cabinet in difference. I simply couldnt believe that these speakers disappointed me so much. In the right system, and with a different taste in presentation, I expect that these would sound good, but not for me I'm afraid.

    So, my ranking for these speakers goes like this:
    1. Mission M51
    2. B&W 602 S3
    3. KEF Q1
    4. Quad 11L (!!)

    Needless to say, a pair of black M51's have been ordered, and I should get them on Wednesday.

    I also had the chance to A/B compare the Cambridge Audio DAC3 with the RCD-02 player while was there. My impression still stands that the RCD-02 is slightly more detailed, and definetly more refined, but for sheer musicality, the DAC3 definetly wins out, just so much more gutsy, far more drive in the bass.
  2. Chip Johannssen

    Chip Johannssen

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    Just to show how completely different everyone's taste is, I would have placed them in reverse order bar the Mission which I haven't heard

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