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RKO

Need a TON of help for $2k speakers or system

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Well first things first.........hey to everyone here, as I just signed up and this is my initial post.  As the title suggests, I need a whole heck of alot of help.  And sorry, as this is gonna be a bit of a long post, but I'm just trying to give as much information as I can.

 

So I'm looking to buy some bookshelf speakers for the first time since I owned a pair in high school 30 years ago.  I've been solely a headphone user ever since and my ears are just about spent.  I have one massive issue which pretty much messes everything up.  I live on an island, and because of that, auditioning equipment is about as close to zero as it gets, and I've never found anyone that will ship things here for free other than Amazon.  So whatever I order pretty much has to go through Amazon.  And I realize one thousand percent that everyone hears things differently, my room is different than your room, and everything else that goes into asking other people for recommendations.  But this is the hand I've been dealt, so I'm just trying to get as much info I can sift through as possible before I order 3 different speakers to audition.

 

I'll try and give the best explanation of what I'm looking for sound wise, and also the (very) few speakers I've been able to hear.  I really don't understand all the audiophile terms that reviewers use, like airy, dry, wet and so on.  Like alot of people, I'm VERY sensitive to hot treble (even more than most people), so smooth treble is an absolute must.  Even more important than non fatiguing treble would be the midrange.  Atleast I believe it's the midrange.  Recently I was able to hear two pretty expensive speakers (atleast for me), one was the Krell Modulari Primo and the other some floorstanding Larsen's.  I was only able to hear two songs on the Larsen's and one on the Krell.  But both, with the volume turned up fairly well, the vocals nearly split my ears in half.  On the Larsen's, a jazz track was played and everything was fine until the trumpet came in, and again my ears bled.  So I believe, especially with the vocals, not entirely sure about the trumpet, but I believe somewhere in there I'm super sensitive to maybe something in the midrange area.  So I think I'm looking for a (very?) warm midrange right on up through the treble.  As for the bass, this is seemingly the least important to me because of the huge problems I have with mids and highs, so I'm not about to get picky in all three areas.  In a perfect world, and I realize the physics involved with a 5-6" woofer, but I don't think I'm looking for a "feel it in my chest" sort of bass.  I'm not gonna use a sub so there does need to be a decent amount for that size woofer though.  I read the following in a review of a speaker recently and even though I'm not 100% sure what it means, it atleast sounds interesting to me:

 

"What I liked about the bass was that it didn’t showboat but sat within the mix. It retained its individual nature and was both effective and powerful but didn’t pretend that it was the star of the show. That is, it didn’t swamp the soundstage but knew its place and was more effective because of it."

 

The last thing I'll say about the sound are the drums.  I like drums and everything percussive.  I MUCH prefer the sound of my drums and percussion, if anything, to be a little under cooked than a little over cooked.

 

Damn, this is actually longer than I thought it would be, lol.  As far as active / powered / passive, I'm open to any.  Right now I don't have a single thing as far as amplification, or a dac, which is why these all in one actives have caught my eye.  But if someone was beyond enthusiastic about a passive/amp combo I'll definitely entertain it.  I've had a listen to a couple studio monitors, JBL 305 PMKII (far too bright) and Adam A3x & 5x.  I can see why someone would be drawn to Adam, but ultimately studio monitors don't seem to be for me - not enough warmth.  But those are the only two I've ever heard.  The last couple things I'll add are, they'll be used probably 70% of the time in low to moderate apartment living nearfield listening volumes, and I listen to absolutely positively everything.  Everything as in, any genre from any time period in any language.  And if at all possible, I'm kinda hoping what you recommend is something you've heard, even if it was briefly. 

 

Thanks for listening to all that ramble...........................Chris

 

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Sounds like you need a set of Sonus Faber Olympica 1 bookshelf speakers.  They're only 6500 USD...  What's your budget?

 

Or perhaps Joseph Audio Pulsars.  I think they cost approximately the same, but are purported to have nice bass. I have not heard the Pulsars, but if I wanted to spend 30K+ on a pair of speakers I would probably be buying the Pearl 3.

 

edit 2K, Hmmm.  Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 perhaps.  I had these and I liked them a lot. I like the Sonus Faber speakers more though.

 

 http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/SRM2/srm2.html

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Thanks for the suggestion.  Just a quick question...........do you think the Ascend's sound like what I'm looking for, or are these just speakers you've owned and liked?

 

Edit:  Ok, forget the Ascends, you can't get them through Amazon.

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I'm gonna add a few things:  If I never posted here in the forum, and I just had to do this by myself with no suggestions, the two speakers that I planned on buying to audition would be the Dynaudio Excite X14A and Audioengine HD6.  I'm not saying these two are what I'm looking for soundwise, but I really was only looking at active / powered speakers since I wouldn't have to worry about matching with amps or dacs, and to be perfectly honest I haven't found that many more selections out there.  But I'm new at this, which is why I figured I'd try a post.  There's also the Acoustic Energy AE1, but there pushing my limits of 2K.

 

Also, if you choose a passive speaker could you please suggest an amp to go along with it.

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46 minutes ago, RKO said:

Thanks for the suggestion.  Just a quick question...........do you think the Ascend's sound like what I'm looking for, or are these just speakers you've owned and liked?

 

Edit:  Ok, forget the Ascends, you can't get them through Amazon.

 

You may still want to try the ascends, they are $1448 USD and are phenomenal speakers, and I think right up your alley. I had no problems with their guarantee either.

 

http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/support/30dayguar.html

 

Does the Amp have to fit within the total 2K budget?

 

Integrated all in one?

Separates?

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28 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

post a list of under $2k speakers you can get on Amerzonk that do not have metal tweeters - we'll take it from there

 

Good point.  I'll see if I can do that, it'll take me a couple of weeks though.

 

@AudioDoctor:  Yeah, I was really looking at absolutely no more than 2k for everything.  The problem with the Ascend's is it would cost me a small fortune to send them back if I didn't end up choosing them, which is why Amazon works so well for me.  I may have a look tomorrow at the Post Office or Fed Ex and see just how much it would cost.  I sent something that weighed like 1 pound to the closest part of the United States from me and it was like 13 bucks, so I'm not hopeful.

 

 

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That sucks. Sadly, I know nothing of shipping technicalities. Under 2K for everything, I think the wireless Kef LS50W  will be your best bet at just over 2K.

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7 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

 

I actually meant to mention those in my original post, not because I've heard them, but because there's gotta be just short of a million posts about them on the internet.  So even though I've never heard them, with everything I've read from their detractors, I really gotta believe that they're just too bright sounding for my ears.  That's there one definitive criticism from the people that don't like them.

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I'm actually crapping over everything you post man, lol, sorry bout that.  I'd like to order 3 different speakers and so far I have 2, maybe I'll take another look at those KEF's because I think the wireless ones are sorta new if I'm not mistaken, and all my reviewing was with the passive versions, and I think I remember people saying the actives are smoother.  Not sure, just going from memory, which is not so good anymore.

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1 hour ago, RKO said:

I'm actually crapping over everything you post man, lol, sorry bout that.  I'd like to order 3 different speakers and so far I have 2, maybe I'll take another look at those KEF's because I think the wireless ones are sorta new if I'm not mistaken, and all my reviewing was with the passive versions, and I think I remember people saying the actives are smoother.  Not sure, just going from memory, which is not so good anymore.

 

Ha, no worries man, it doesn't bother me one bit.

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Hey Chris.  I have the two speakers you mentioned, the Dynaudio Excite 14A and the Audioengine HD6.  I bought the X14A first, but then I got the HD6.  It's no contest.  The $699 HD6 blow away the $1299 Excite 14A for me.

 

I moved the Excite 14A speakers to my bedroom.  The only thing they are used for is my bedroom TV, which I use as an alarm clock.

 

The 14A sound cold, lifeless and boring compared to HD6.  The 14A's midrange sounds dull sometimes, veiled at other times.  The midrange is the HD6's strength.  I just spent several hours listening to Joni Michell and David Rawlings with Gillian Welch through my HD6, and I was pleased the whole time with the beauty of the acoustic guitar work and vocals and the room filling sound.  The HD6 speakers produce a gorgeous tone, reverb and decay.  The balance between treble, midrange and bass is just right.  For singer songwriter and folk music, I feel nothing was missing or off.

 

I also listen to a lot of ambient and electronic, such as Robert Rich, Biosphere, Banco de Gaia, a little of Tangerine Dream, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, etc. and the HD6 speakers perform so well I don't want to stop listening.  On many Friday and Saturday nights, I turn down the volume and listen to Robert Rich's sleep concerts as I fall asleep. 

 

I typically listen at 65 to 75 decibels with some peaks at 82 decibels at my listening position, which is 8 feet 10 inches from the speakers.  The HD6 speakers aren't going to sound good at 90 decibels or above, but that is not an issue for me as I never play them that loud.  I have the HD6 speakers 25 inches from the wall. 

 

The HD6 speakers are detailed without ever being harsh or bright in the treble or upper midrange.  Bells, chimes, cymbals and higher electronic notes all sound detailed, pleasing, and loud enough to appreciate them without ever being too forward or bright.  I have never winced or turned down the volume when high notes were played on my HD6 speakers.  I am put off by a heavy emphasis on brightness, maybe not as much as you are, but I am sensitive to it.  The HD6's upper frequencies are rolled off just enough that they are never unpleasant but not so much that anything is missing or veiled.  By contrast, the Excite 14A usually sound veiled to the point of being dull, even though they sometimes manage to deliver some sparkle.

 

Bass is usually good, but with a very few tracks with overcooked bass the HD6 can get overwhelmed.  Watkins Glen by the Grateful Dead and Cold Tea Blues by Cowboy Junkies are a coupe of examples.  The only song in my 5,625 tracks collection that has boomy bass is Short Cuts by April in Paris.  The solution for these three songs is to turn down the volume a bit.  For all other songs, the bass is surprisingly good.  The HD6 won't always give good full bodied kick drum, which is to be expected with 5.5 inch woofers, but they do sound great with kick drums such as on some tracks by Dirty Three.

 

I am using two 12-inch subwoofers now to supplement the bass.  I run the HD6 speakers full range, because they sound best by far that way.  I turned down the volume on the subs so that they won't cause any rattles in my house, and so most of the bass I hear is from the HD6 speakers.  You said that you won't be getting subs, but you might think about it at some point just to fill in the low bass.  The HD6 are rated down to 50hz.

 

My HD6 speakers are doing double duty with music and my TV.  The convenience is something I will never give up.  I can just hit the mute button on my TV remote and click play in JRiver for music from my computer.  It's so simple.  The HD6 speakers have a built in DAC so that I can use the digital connection with my TV, and the audio is clear and accurate.  I have a 4K Blu Ray player, and the high definition audio on the Planet Earth series is stunning and jaw dropping with the HD6 speakers.  I use an external DAC, the TEAC 503 ($999) with the HD6's RCA analog connections for music.

 

I noticed that with the HD6's internal DAC, some busy music can sound muddy (a few seconds of a Led Zeppelin song, for example).  This rarely happens, but it is there.  For most music, it sounds very good.  Since I started using an external DAC, this problem has not been an issue.

 

Apple AAC and high resolution music sound great with JRiver from my iMac and the HD6 speakers.  They strike a good balance between being forgiving and yet detailed and pleasing.

 

The HD6 speakers aren't perfect, but they are a true bargain, highly versatile, and they are so good with most of the music I listen to now that I look forward to listening to them every day.  They don't have massive scale, slam, or impact, but the HD6 speakers, to me, serve as proof that sometimes paying less gets better sound.

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13 hours ago, RKO said:

I read the following in a review of a speaker recently and even though I'm not 100% sure what it means, it atleast sounds interesting to me:

 

"What I liked about the bass was that it didn’t showboat but sat within the mix. It retained its individual nature and was both effective and powerful but didn’t pretend that it was the star of the show. That is, it didn’t swamp the soundstage but knew its place and was more effective because of it."

 

My first recommendation is that you ignore reviews. Small speakers do little low-bass (and no sub-bass); there's no way around it and sounds wrong no matter how gracefully people put it...

 

13 hours ago, RKO said:

So I think I'm looking for a (very?) warm midrange right on up through the treble.

 

If you are looking for "full-" or "rich"-sounding speakers that are nicely balance at low levels and don't mind passives then I suggest that you give a listen to the Graham Audio LS5/9s and the Harbeth M30s.

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The KEF LSX might be still be worth looking into.  That leaves all sorts of room in the budget for cutting boards and room treatments.  They're so light you wouldn't even have a problem hanging them from your ceiling for isolation purposes.  

 

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14 hours ago, semente said:

My first recommendation is that you ignore reviews

 

I couldn't agree more.  In the last few months these have become the bane of my existence.  Every "professional" reviewer on these hi-fi websites all share one common trait:  they write like they're trying to win a Pulitzer prize.  I feel I need my Thesaurus by my side just to get through a review of a loudspeaker.  The only thing I ever seem to get out of a review was that the treble was non fatiguing, if the bass reached what the specs said it would reach, how loud the speaker went, and whether they liked it or not.  And they always seem to like it.  The midrange seems like an after thought, no one ever says if they sound good at low volumes, and I would've thought comparisons to other speakers would be a natural thing to do, but hey, I don't get free speakers thrown at me so I must be the one doing something wrong.  But I have to start somewhere because I can't listen to anything.  Which is why I now chose to ask in a forum, where I can get a little more insight from people hopefully.

 

15 hours ago, semente said:

If you are looking for "full-" or "rich"-sounding speakers that are nicely balance at low levels and don't mind passives then I suggest that you give a listen to the Graham Audio LS5/9s and the Harbeth M30s.

 

I'm pretty sure those are way over my budget.

 

 

20 hours ago, Wilderness said:

Hey Chris.  I have the two speakers you mentioned, the Dynaudio Excite 14A and the Audioengine HD6.  I bought the X14A first, but then I got the HD6.  It's no contest.  The $699 HD6 blow away the $1299 Excite 14A for me.

 

@Wilderness:  Awesome man!  That's what I'm talking about.  To be perfectly honest the HD6 always "seemed" like the exact sound signature I was looking fo,r but my concern with them is I've seen very conflicting reports on how they sounded at low volume levels.  There's alot (and by alot, I mean not really alot...........if all I could find was 4 people talk about it, and it was 3 to 1 against......well then, that's alot then, lol.  When you talk decibel levels, I honestly can't say what level is what.  But from your enthusiasm I can probably guess that you think they still sound good at lower listening volumes.  I'm still gonna order the Excites, I basically have to, I can't put all my eggs in just one basket.  I was hoping for more choices to select from, I really wanted a third to audition.  The only other I've found is the Acoustic Energy AE1 and that's really peaking my money limit, plus trying to type those words into a search feature in a forum is pretty much hell with those words!  Really interesting what you say about the Excites, I know Chris(?) The Computer Audiophile reviewed some XEO's and seemed to like them alot.  I emailed Dynaudio about the XEO's and Excites and they told me they share a very similar sound sig but that the Excites were warmer which was why I chose those over the XEO's.  Appreciate you taking the time to give that write up.  I'd ask you describe the Excites more, but it sounds like you hate 'em, lol.

 

13 hours ago, rando said:

The KEF LSX might be still be worth looking into.  That leaves all sorts of room in the budget for cutting boards and room treatments.  They're so light you wouldn't even have a problem hanging them from your ceiling for isolation purposes.  

 

 

Funny , I just stumbled upon those today while doing more research on the KEF's.  I gotta say though, I don't think the KEFs are anything of what I'm looking for.  I know ALOT of people love 'em, but there are enough people out there that don't like them and cite harsh treble and no midbass or warmth whatsoever, which is basically everything I'm trying to stay away from.  But even with all that said, I REALLY wish I could hear them, it would give me a perfect baseline to be able to compare with other speakers since basically everyone and their brother has heard them.

 

@R1200CL:    Thanks, I've read the original review before.  As for Roon, I don't use that, and the HAF is beyond what I wanted to start doing.  This may be a really naive question, on the back of the KEF's you can add or subtract a little treble or bass...............can the midrange be warmed up a bit through just a basic EQ??  I gotta believe a sound engineer could do it with more extensive tools, but I'm not sure just how much I could do it with a basic EQ.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, RKO said:

I'm pretty sure those are way over my budget

I don't think it's impossible to dins a used M30.1 for less than 2k, and you'd still have enough spare cash to get a nice integrated amplifier 

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@RKO Cannot help but point out you began by agreeing to avoid reviews and then replied to me...

 

I have not heard the new KEF myself.  Nor do I feel you crapped on me for introducing a new option.  Which is effectively all I was trying to do mentioning their existence.  The fault that can be taken with professional, and especially unsolicited, reviews is always the lack of a middle ground.  One refuses to display faults and the other attempts to overstate everything, mostly negative, to match their loquacious output.  

 

As a very broad example of why none of them apply to you.  The requirements set out by you are environmental.  Read: Islander desires laid back sound.  Constant exposure to both drumming of the ocean and a gentle exposition of mid to high tonal range dictates uncompromising shaping of sounds to match.

 

The exact beat of your home is not figured into a single speaker design available from the mainland on Amazon.  Nor is it likely to be present in the mastering of recordings you have mentioned.  If the trumpeter worked that room to expose a strident note it will be present (and one would hope accurately reproduced).  What you do with it in your own room is your business.  More than likely the path to happiness is through EQ and room treatments.  Also to a large part isolation of the speaker from the rhythm of the island itself.  

 

Given your remoteness a DAC/amp and passive speaker may be the prudent choice for long term stability.  In the long run spending $1500 on equipment and $200 on shipping could be more rewarding.  The only reason this is being explored is you might not be giving it full weight as an option available to you.  We fully grasp the ease air freight from Amazon introduces.  That you don't currently seem disposed towards a mentality of deep research and taking a chance purchasing something that couldn't be returned.  Risk v. reward 

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17 hours ago, semente said:

I don't think it's impossible to dins a used M30.1 for less than 2k, and you'd still have enough spare cash to get a nice integrated amplifier 

 

Thanks, never thought about used, and not really sure how I feel about it truthfully.

 

@rando:  Sorry, but I didn't understand anything in your post.

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Hi Chris,

 

You want to know more about what I think of the Excite 14A.  Well, to me, they don't do anything well except wake me up in the morning when I use them with my bedroom TV as an alarm clock.  Treble and midrange are icy and dull.  Where's the bass?  They do not cause fatigue, but that's about it.  I expect that a pair of $200 passives would sound much better.

 

The HD6 speakers, however, are beautiful with midrange, and the treble is detailed and sweet without ever causing fatigue.  The folks at Audioengine spent a lot of time working to get the tone right, and they succeeded.  The bass is adequate for most music, but I added subs to go deeper. 

 

I did find that the HD6 were bass boomy when too close to the wall.  So, I moved them out 25 inches and now all is well.  I do not apply any EQ or room correction.

 

The HD6 speakers took about five hours of use to begin to open up, and about 100 hours or so to get closer to their potential.

 

You can get an app for iPad, iPhone, or Android to measure decibels output from your speakers from your listening position.  85 decibels at a steady and prolonged level, plus peaks, is supposedly the level at which hearing damage can occur.  I feel that 65 to 75 decibels, with peaks in the low 80s, is plenty loud enough for me to enjoy the music.  The HD6 speakers do sound their best at these levels.  I can turn them down a little late at night on bass heavy tracks if I worry about disturbing my neighbors.  I live in a house, though, and so if I keep my windows and heavy drapes closed I figure that I can usually play my speakers as loud as I want.  I've never heard a complaint.  The HD6 speakers sound good at moderate levels that are a little quieter than what I usually use.  I don't play them at low levels, because what would be the point?  Some people listen to music with big speakers at much louder levels -- a steady 90 decibels and above -- but I don't enjoy music that loud and I wonder about their hearing health.  I have excellent hearing and I want to keep it that way.

 

Another useful app for your handheld is one that will let you see the frequency range of your speakers in real time as well as on a recorded plot line that can record the frequency range on a fever graph over several hours.  I did that with my HD6, and I found that they do indeed roll off the upper midrange and treble.  This matches what I thought I was hearing.  The results with the app don't tell the whole story, though.  The HD6 are voiced so well that while avoiding the fatiguing sound of bright speakers they still deliver a gorgeous sound with treble and midrange.  Some folks spend many thousands of dollars on speakers to get that balance (and some of those speakers offer up better and louder bass).

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I have Excite 14A for couple of years and they sound pretty well to me. I am listening mostly to classic and jazz. Comfortable sound, soft and warm, very good for vocal. Not much to irritate overly sensitive ears.

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I don't know much about the details of the recommendations so far, but Audioengine did a great job on the A2s that I bought for my computer room--and Stereophile agreed (🙄). I find them very balanced and accurate for the money.

 

AFAIK Audioengine offers free shipping.

 

Be careful of "wireless" as bluetooth (in my reading at least) has limitations.

 

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On 11/13/2018 at 4:58 AM, RKO said:

@R1200CL:    Thanks, I've read the original review before.  As for Roon, I don't use that, and the HAF is beyond what I wanted to start doing.  This may be a really naive question, on the back of the KEF's you can add or subtract a little treble or bass...............can the midrange be warmed up a bit through just a basic EQ??  I gotta believe a sound engineer could do it with more extensive tools, but I'm not sure just how much I could do it with a basic EQ.

 

 

 

 

 

It has more advanced EQ in the app, along with settings that try to take room interactions into account. 

 

Sounds silly but have you considered physical tone controls and equalisers? Schiit offer a equaliser which may help you, with your senestivity to high frequencys. 

 

The Audio engine A1 come highly regarded and are apparently a good match with a Mytek Brooklyn for a preamp. Equaliser settings could be adjusted via streamer or computer settings.

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