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  1. #1
    JSE
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    Internet Speakers?

    First, let me start off by saying this is not a "this speaker is better than that speaker" thread. I am not saying that at all. I am simply wondering about the rationale people employ when selecting a speaker(s).

    Why do people often choose to go with an Internet speaker company? In reading posts over the past year or so I often see people who go out and listen to a batch of speakers they have determined would be worthy candidates. They often spend hours upon hours listening to the speakers and take note of what they like and dislike. They often come to the point where they say, “I have narrowed it down to speaker A and speaker B”. Then, all of a sudden you read, I really liked speaker A but decided to go with internet speaker C. What? They spent all that time auditioning speakers because they understood only their ears would be the judge of what’s best for them. But then they order a speaker unheard. I know these companies usually allow a 30 days trial so you can return them if you don’t like them. But, it just seems odd that someone would take the time to audition and eliminate speakers one by one and then all of a sudden pay money for a speaker unheard. They basically go against their entire system for choosing a speaker. Most internet speaker companies build great stuff and quality is not an issue but it’s just weird to see someone spend all that time listening to speakers and then do a 180 and order from a internet company.

    I guess some of these people think of it as buying the speaker to audition them and is just one more speaker to try before making a choice. But how many people really return these speakers? How many people get these speakers and say, “close enough” , the speakers are hear and they sound good and I don’t want to ship them back. How often are people really getting the speaker they like the most?

    Anyway, just thinking out loud and interested in getting some other perspectives. Again, I am not commenting on the value or quality of internet based speaker companies. I am simply commenting on the audition and buying process.

    JSE

  2. #2
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    Same could be said for people auditioning a speaker in a store. It may perform wonderfully in a store. You may order it online and detest the way it sounds in your home.

    Auditioning is necessary to find out what particular sound you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy Martin Logan you probably enjoy the ribbon sound which means Magnepan or Newform Research could be other options for you. If you enjoy Dynaudio speakers nOrh may be an option. Going the DIY route? Look into GR Research, VMPS, or the DIY Ed Frias speakers. I would audition the speakers. I would also do a ton of research prior to buying the speakers, finding out what people who own them enjoy. What they may have upgraded or moved on to.

    How many times do you purchase something to find out it isn't quite what you wanted but is close enough for the difference not to matter? People do this all the time with smaller purchases, anything that costs $1 - $100. You don't return the food when it arrives cold or is made wrong. You literally eat the cost. You actually spend alot more on those smaller items than the big ones except you do it a dollar or two at a time rather than all at once.

    I wouldn't recommend buying something just because I said so. All I do is provide options for the decision of what to do is up to you. Above all, do the research for you want this to be a decision you will not regret though there is always that possibility with anything you buy.

  3. #3
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    I think that internet companies are just another option among the many options that are available out there. I ended up buying a pair of Cambridge Soundworks Newton M-80's after auditioning a bunch of speakers. Yup, some of them sounded nice, but nothing really jumped out at me. I have also heard the argument that you get more for your money with internet companies also. Who knows if that is true of not. I guess the listener is the judge of that when it gets down to it. It is also a case of auditioning a bunch of speakers to find out what you don't like as well as do like. I also did as much research as possible on the speakers that I was considering, particularly Cambridge Soundworks. Without question, it is taking a chance. I guess the best thing that you can do when ordering from an internet company is find out as much as you can about the company and speaker, and make the commitment to yourself that if the speaker isn't what you want, you'll send it back. Hope this perspective helps.

  4. #4
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    Before buying my Snell's, I spent the better part of eight months listening to speakers. I must have listened to at least 30-35 manufacturers, and 70-80 different speakers. Now there were many I could not afford, but may that I could. My journey had as much to do with trying to fine tune my ears as it did in finding speakers. Unless you hear what is out there, how will you truly know what is best for your ears?

    Now most people believe speakers are the most important component in a system; for many by a country mile. What I find funny is how little time these same people then spend on auditioning "the most important component." This makes no sense to me. Why are they in a rush? JSE, how many times have you then read about how they made a mistake. How about when they ask people on these types of forums for advice on which ones they should choose? Do we have their ears?

    I have been happy with my choice for 13 years now. I have recently been listining to speakers; just to hear what is new out there. Know, I am not looking to replace my Snell's, rather I am intrested in adding speakers to my system for listening to Jazz. As much as I love my Snell's, they could be better with acoustical music, like Jazz. They are great with rock, which I spend most of my time listening to. I am not in a hurry and funds are scarce, so this might be a process that takes a year or two. Hell, I am in no hurry. So far the Coincident Speaker Technology Triumph Signature UHS are the front runners. Awesome with Jazz, not so good with rock, perfect; just what I was looking for. Also, not a bad retail price @ $1200!
    Remember, different isn't always better, but it is different.
    Keep things as simple as possible, but not too simple.
    Let your ears decide for you!

  5. #5
    JSE
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    I understand what you guys are saying and I do think there are some great internet speakers out there. It's also logical that they can put more into a speaker due to low overhead, distribution, etc. I spent a lot of time auditioning speakers and receivers and feel I made the right choice.

    I guess I just find it interesting how people will post stating that they have listened to a million speakers and have narrowed it down to speakers A and B. Their next post reads, decided to go with internet speaker C. What? What about A & B that you spent so much time with? They are not right or wrong, it's just funny to see them change on a dime.

    JSE

  6. #6
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    I think a lot of people are easily swayed by others opinions. Think about it, all of these internet companies rely of people READING about how great they are instead of LISTENING to them. It's like the recent thread where PHDkid kept shilling for AV123.com. Here's a site that is the direct marketer for the speakers and I'm actually supposed to take any opinions from that site seriously? Right. That said, a lot of people do take these things as gospel. It's the same as going only off reviews from AR. Gee, do you think the owner of the equipment that's writing the review might be somewhat biased? Hmmm, I wonder?

    As you stated JSE, this is not a slam on internet only companies as I own CSW stuff and think it's terrific. Personally, what stops me from auditioning Axiom, Rocket, Swan, Norh, et.al. is the concern as to where will they be 5 or 10 years from now if I need parts or service? CSW has been around for 20 years and that's comforting. For a lot of the buying public, they are only concerned with the instant gratification of saving a few bucks thru purchasing internet direct. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, I'm just a little more conservative.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    I always frame this situation as risk and reward. The internet speakers are a higher risk because you're buying them on faith and if you ever decide to return them, you're out for whatever the two-way shipping charges are. However, the internet direct channel indeed has an advantage in that it does not have to support the retail overhead, and if that savings gets passed onto the consumer, then really it's that margin that buyers are looking for when they go the internet direct route.

    However, I also look at internet direct and retail speakers as not necessarily the same thing, because the components of value in a product go beyond just the product itself. Retail speakers give you a physical point of purchase, a place to try things before buying, a means by which to borrow speakers without buying them first, and a place for aftersales support in case you change your mind or something goes wrong. That retail overhead that adds another layer of margin to a speaker also adds value to the speaker. If those value added items that go along with a retail store don't mean anything to a consumer, then the internet direct route might be a better route.

    For me, speakers are way too subjective a purchase to just mail order without hearing first. Over the years, I've found plenty of examples of speakers that are widely acclaimed but sounded less than stellar to my ears. And conversely, I've tried speakers that never got a lot of hype but I wind up liking quite a bit. I tend to believe that speakers sold internet direct get a lot more hype because the people who are fans of those speakers have a much higher layer of skepticism to hurdle than proponents of retail speakers. If I make a recommendation on a speaker and someone doesn't believe me, I just refer them to their nearest dealer and tell them to try it for themselves. For someone to verify a claim on an internet direct speaker, they have to actually buy them to try them. It might turn out to be the right speaker, but if it's not, then you have to deal with the return shipping and those charges.

    In my case, I did wind up buying an internet direct subwoofer, but that was largely because there were no options that met my criteria at the time I ordered them. Basically, I wanted a sealed box subwoofer at about the $500 price point. The only option was the $400 Adire Rava, and a lot of the DIYers on this board used the Shiva driver that was on the Rava. So with that in mind, I felt that it was worth the gamble. But, I went into the purchase fully aware that if I did not like the subwoofer, the two-way shipping charges would have cost me $80 even with a 30-day money back guarantee.

    Fortunately, I followed the prevailing advice and also bought a parametric equalizer at the same time. If not for the EQ, I very well might have returned the subwoofer, because no amount of tweaking and adjusting without the EQ was sufficient to make that subwoofer listenable with my room's acoustics. In the end, I was very happy with my purchase, but now that new options from B&W and Atlantic Technology have gone on the market in my price range, who knows if I would now consider the risk with going mail order worthwhile.

  8. #8
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    I think many times buyers may not have access to a real high end shop. You can usually only find high end gear in cities. I'm talking about a shop that may offer you something other than mass market brands and be willing to let you do an in home demo.

    Those that don't have that excuse, shame on you. Think of the expense of having that store in your town and to pay the guys to show you the gear. By buying off the internet you help put them on the unemployment line and help put an end to your local dealer. The giant corporate stores have all but done that already. You gave up customer service to save a buck. There's nothing like putting your hands on gear and having a face to talk to if something goes wrong. The corporate chain stores don't want to see you again unless you buy the extended warranty, and then what have you really saved? If you are lucky enough to have a local shop that is good you had better do some business there when you can to do your part to support a dying breed.

    If you see something you have been listening to cheaper on the internet, give your local guy a chance to match it. Consider if there is shipping costs involved in your internet purchase. Will the local guy take care of you on warranty? That's worth some extra bucks if he will, you will have to ship somewhere, if bought on the net. The local guy has way more overhead to pay for than the internet guy. Your local shop has to pay salaries, utilities for his showroom, have money tied up in inventory, including those speakers on the floor you just listened to, and other operational expenses. The internet guy may just be a middle man with a computer in a den. Having none of the overhead your local shop has.

    Put some thought into your purchase before you let go of those dollars. Look at the big picture and consider down the road.

  9. #9
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    Often times people could only see choices 'A' or 'B' and didn't even consider 'C' or 'D' as other possibilities. They were not aware of the product. I've seen that happen multiple times. Then, of course, there is the dreaded onus of it being 'internet only'. Replace that with 'factory direct'. ACI has been in business over 25 years. Same thing with VMPS. Odyssey, Newform Research, Magnepan, nOrh, Axiom, SVS, HSU, and Ascend Acoustics all look to be mainstays. Of course, a person can always ask and see if anyone in their area has a particular brand or speaker for them to audition. But definately include the cost of shipping in the price. (Something I always try to do with the speaker or other equipment recommendations.)

  10. #10
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    I say also factor in bargaining. Factory might say SAVE $100 on a $500 product. But, you know, lots of times you can get that for 350 at a local store. Then you have to pay for shipping and all that...
    Even worse, if the manufacturer is in another country...DUTY, which works out to be an extra 20-30% or something.

  11. #11
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    My Online Odyssey

    Great thread/question, JSE. (Sorry to be jumping in a bit late.)

    Having just bought 5 Newton series speakers from Cambridge Soundworks (2 M60s, 2 M50s, and an MC400), a sub from Hsu, and a Denon AVR from Crutchfield, I've got some thoughts on the matter. What's somewhat different for me (vs. the hypothetical you describe) is that, because I did so much researching online, it was pretty much a given that I'd consider at least one or two internet-based brands, along with speakers from local stores. In fact, I had hoped to compare models from local stores — at home — but the speakers either didn't wow me enough, or the stores had an unreasonably high (25%) restocking fee. As far as mail-order speakers went, I knew I was going to be sending one pair back, and I wrote it off psycologically as a cost of doing business. Plus, I found an online coupon for the CSWs that more than covered the return shipping.

    Auditioning speakers in stores was foremost about hearing different brands and models. But it was also useful for, as someone said, learing how to listen. Ultimately, I went with an online brand even though I liked the sound of the Paradigm Mini Monitors best. The difference was so slight that it didn't overcome some other factors, including the lower price and the superior (to my eye anyway) look of the Newtons' real maple veneer.

    Once I had used my CSWs for a few weeks, I posted a review (of the M60s). In it, I explain why I went with CSWs (which for me and, I would think, the majority of their customers, is an "internet-mostly" company; they have a few retail stores in a big cities, AFAIK.)

    Along with wondering about people's online shopping/buying habits, I'm curious about why some brands get a lot of word of mouth and editorial coverage (Axiom, AV123) while others are damned with faint praise or otherwise consigned to the margins (CSW). Mind you, I'm not some kind of fan-boy shill for them. I, like JSE, am just interested in understanding the process and rationales people use.

    Here's my take:
    The more savvy brands, like Axiom and Aperion, do a good job of getting themselves in front of Internet shoppers. Though a lot of people find Aperion's pop-ups annoying—just by virture of being pop-ups—I consider them good advertising. The content is smart and engaging; the messages are effective at educating consumers about that segment of the market, namely the unique value offered by factory-direct speakers. Even though I ended up not auditioning a pair, Aperion gets credit for selling me on the idea. Maybe they should send CSW an invoice...?

    Axiom gets the nod for being the Saturn of speaker brands. By hosting its own message boards — and allowing uncensored discussion of other brands — they've accorded their speakers a cult-like status. It shows a lot of guts, and confidence in their product, IMO. It's also pretty shrewd marketing.

    As someone mentioned above, people are swayed by popular opinion (50,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong). Axiom has effectively created a small community of audiophiles, the core majority of which are Axiom fans. By allowing other brands to be discussed, it gives their products greater credibility than sites that print only customer praise.

    Anyone who's researched an audio purchase knows you've got to read between the lines of every review. Like topspeed, I'm not going to buy based only on the gushing comments the company puts up on its site. So for me the greatest deterrent to ordering a pair of CSWs was the lack of objective, "informed" commentary; the few reviews I could find (here and on Amazon) seemed to be mostly from people who weren't hard-core audiophiles. Which isn't a criticism of CSW buyers so much as a curiosity about why more discriminating listeners tend to rule out CSW. What finally did it for me was, frankly, they just looked so good. Which I know is also not high up on the list of "serious" speaker buyers. But for me it was an issue. It turned out that their sound lives up to their looks IMO.

    I for one would love it if CSW had a site like Axiom. I think it would be a good thing for their marketing, because the majority of board regulars would probably be there to reinforce their choices by chatting up the speakers (and other CSW gear) to people poking around for info. It would certainly inspire more confidence among people who are leery of ordering a speaker in order to hear it. The Axiom board basically convinced me to try a pair of M3ti's. My hunch is that CSW perceives their buyers to be less avid about the products, or they worry that it might backfire and reveal weaknesses. Or maybe they're doing well enough that it's not worth the effort and expense. Personally, I think their speaker design is the ultimate solution to the WAF problem: make the cabinets and grilles something you're pleased to look at and display (instead of small and "invisible" cubes). It's worked for me.

    I hope that answers your question, JSE.

  12. #12
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger
    So for me the greatest deterrent to ordering a pair of CSWs was the lack of objective, "informed" commentary; the few reviews I could find (here and on Amazon) seemed to be mostly from people who weren't hard-core audiophiles. Which isn't a criticism of CSW buyers so much as a curiosity about why more discriminating listeners tend to rule out CSW. What finally did it for me was, frankly, they just looked so good. Which I know is also not high up on the list of "serious" speaker buyers. But for me it was an issue. It turned out that their sound lives up to their looks IMO.

    I for one would love it if CSW had a site like Axiom. I think it would be a good thing for their marketing, because the majority of board regulars would probably be there to reinforce their choices by chatting up the speakers (and other CSW gear) to people poking around for info. It would certainly inspire more confidence among people who are leery of ordering a speaker in order to hear it. The Axiom board basically convinced me to try a pair of M3ti's. My hunch is that CSW perceives their buyers to be less avid about the products, or they worry that it might backfire and reveal weaknesses. Or maybe they're doing well enough that it's not worth the effort and expense. Personally, I think their speaker design is the ultimate solution to the WAF problem: make the cabinets and grilles something you're pleased to look at and display (instead of small and "invisible" cubes). It's worked for me.

    I hope that answers your question, JSE.
    There are plenty of print reviews of CSW products out there, so maybe you should widen your search to go beyond just user reviews. The thing to keep in mind with CSW is that they have their own chain of audio stores in Cali and New England that also stock Onkyo, Marantz, Sony, and JVC home theater products. And their products are starting to make their way into other retail stores as well, so their business model is a little different than Axiom's. And in general, speakers that others can easily audition in person don't have the same fervent fanaticism that you see behind speakers that are less widely available for listening or only available via mail order.

    CSW began as a catalog retailer that placed full page ads in audio magazines promoting Henry Kloss' latest inventions (most of which were lower cost alternatives to Bose's Wave Radio and Acoustimass products). I don't think they've strayed too far from those roots, even with the internet. You can still order stuff through their print catalog and their website is not all that different from the catalog.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular depressed's Avatar
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    I agree with JSE that buying speakers form internet based company doesn't seem logical.
    It would be tough for me to decide to buy speakers from the net if I never listened to them.
    However, if an intenet based company's speakers have good "true" specs, if they provide extensive info, warranty on their products, if they are built in a somewhat pro manner and offered for a reasonable price, one might get intrigued. A friend of mine bought a Fluance 5 speaker set about a month ago. I listened to them, it's more then good value for the money ($200) and it's probably the best you can get for that money, unless you decide to buy used speakers. Beats the local retailers in that price range.
    For a couple of years now, for all electronic equipment I want to buy, I check the net to compare the prices and more often then not, I'm able to get a better deal online, even with the shipping fee included. Sure, local stores can't be beat as you can listen to the speakers and actually see the speakers before you buy. However, once I determine what speakers I like and want to buy, it doesn't necessarily mean that I will buy them at the store where I heard them. I will look for better deals somewhere else, and ultimately of I dont find a better deal elsewhere, I'll go to the store and buy them there. Honestly, I don't care if the local store goes out of business if I can find the same speakers elsewhere for $100 less.
    Personally, internet based company would be the last option for me to get my speakers.
    As soon as check my checkbook allows it, I will go and look for speakers, probably mains first. Most likely, I will buy used ones. Unlike receivers or DVD players, speakers don't get old as fast as other A/V equipment. People whose bank accounts can please the upgrade bug often do so without having a reason to upgrade the speakers other then "new stuff is out there"
    After all, if one can't afford new speakers, what is wrong with a pair of good ol' B&W?
    Thanks to 6.1, I now have more tolerance for people breathing down my neck...

  14. #14
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    There are plenty of print reviews of CSW products out there, so maybe you should widen your search to go beyond just user reviews.
    --Woochifer
    I should have been clearer. Reviews of CSW products, yes, plenty. Plenty of "expert" reviews about the specific products I was interested in (Newton M60s), not so much. As in bubkus.

    It's all good now, of course. I demo'd the speakers, and loved 'em. It's just that pulling the trigger required a bigger leap of faith than, say, the Axiom M3s, which were backed by throngs of raving Axiomites* and at least some industry press. (*I kid, of course. The people on the Axiom board are zealots, but they're knowledgeable and critical-thinking zealots. It's actually a pretty cool hangout, even if you haven't drunk the Kool-Aid.)

    ...so their business model is a little different than Axiom's. And in general, speakers that others can easily audition in person don't have the same fervent fanaticism that you see behind speakers that are less widely available for listening or only available via mail order.--ibid.
    I didn't mean to imply that CSWs business model is like Axiom's, nor suggest that that justifies CSW hosting a forum. I just think it'd be nice for me as a shopper/customer/owner, and nice for them as a grassroots marketing tool.

    And except for Bay Area folks and New Englanders, most of us hinterlanders (with respect to CSW B&M stores) can't "easily audition in person." So some semi-objective info from a CSW forum would help prospective buyers feel more confident about taking the plunge.

    I agree with JSE that buying speakers form internet based company doesn't seem logical.

    It would be tough for me to decide to buy speakers from the net if I never listened to them.
    However, if an intenet based company's speakers have good "true" specs, if they provide extensive info, warranty on their products, if they are built in a somewhat pro manner and offered for a reasonable price, one might get intrigued.--depressed
    It gets more logical, IMO, if you think of it as "trying" rather than "buying" from an internet co. Almost all include "free" shipping at least one way; some both ways. All offer pretty decent trial periods (30-45 days). And many (at least Axiom, AFAIK) have a network of happy owners near you willing to let you pop by for a demo. So it's not like you're any more committed financially than if you bought from a B&M store and had to face a restock fee if you took the speakers back. And, as I said upthread, return shipping is easier to swallow if you think of it as a cost of doing business. YMMV, of course.

  15. #15
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    perhaps i can shed some experience over here. this is a short story.

    my first dive into HT was with paradigm v.2 monitor series. what a steal for the money. i pieced the system together while living at home and the whole family enjoyed it.

    then, a few years after moving out i decided to try something higher end. or at least some things that were perceived to be higher end. my first try was with rockets (750s and ufw10). i was very disappointed with the sound and the finish. that's all i'll say because i'll get flamed (again) by rocket owners, etc. i returned them for a hefty price of $180.
    i was still intrigued by the whole internet direct opportunity and the raves on avsforum.com. so i tried another internet direct company, axiom. i was much more pleased with the sound and finish on the axioms. you can't mess up vinyl and the speakers had a more accurate treble response. then, after about 2 months of listening to them i was not as pleased. they had blistering highs during some sporting events, shows, and even some dvds produced sibilance. i knew something was wrong the day i turned them off due to listener fatigue. the main problem with the axiom system, IMHO, was the vp150 center channel. it was not enjoyable to listen to at all.
    so, in the midst of this i went on blind faith again with another net direct company - ascend. i tried their cmt-340c center channel. i found it more dynamic, full, and sonically pleasing than the vp150. probably a bad idea to debut a center channel alone with other speakers on my part, but i wanted to see how the vp150 truly was. my ears weren't telling tales. the cmt-340c was not as colored as the vp150. the vp150 has a very metallic sound to it. the cmt-340c was very natural.
    to make a long story shorter... i decided to sell the axioms and return the ascend. my conclusion was as simple as this. i like the paradigm sound for HT.
    i recently received an excellent deal on v.3 studio 20s and a cc570 through a friend. soon i'll just have to decide on the mains (40s or 60s).
    i'm very pleased with these speakers. they sound just right to me and my ears. i've found my balance in a speaker, truly. the road has been long and dreary with some net direct experience. i will say that IMHO ascend makes the best net direct speaker for me. you won't know until you try.
    i still feel as if i have not given ascend a completely fair shot. so i ordered a pair of cmb-170s just the other day. i guess they'll be here on tuesday? i'll see how they stack up for me against my studio 20s.
    i want to see how the cbm-170s do alongside my paradigm preference. i will probably, at least, keep the cbm-170s for another room in the house.

    in conclusion to the net direct companies:
    i've noticed consumers experience emotions of anxiety and anticipation during their quest for these speakers. i've lost track of posts titled "these speakers are awesome" within the first hour of receiving them. i'm guilty of that. that's what i experienced with rockets and axioms. my initial time with both of them was probably biased due to the levels of anxiety and anticipation for what was already perceived to be a jaw-dropping product. even_though - i had not heard or seen the product!! also, most of the companies host subjective peer pressured forums. the only advice i can give is to be as objective as you possibly can.
    i feel that my time with ascend will be more critical and not as 'wowed' due to my past experiences. i have learned a lot and the experience has been rewarding.

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    Interesting. I'd be curious as to know how much time you gave the 750s for break in and if you had the risers as well. Seems like a very quick turnaround for you. One thing to keep in mind is the Paradigm sound very well could be more favorable to you. IMO, Rocket has a more nuetral sound. Such is my experience of Rockets vs. nOrhs. The nOrhs have a much wider soundstage whereas the Rockets excel in every other area. Then again, the Rockets cost much more than the nOrhs do so they should be better.

    Now I also would say it is always best to wait to post a review. Get over the initial awe. Do not post a review for a few months after owning the product.

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