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  1. #1
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Home Speaker Comparison

    The other day my son wanted to hear how his inexpensive (less than $100pr) KLH 900B speakers would sound on a higher end system. So we decided to have a shootout with all the book shelf speakers in my house on my reference system.

    Speakers-

    KLH Model 900B which is a rather large bookshelf speaker, a 3 way design with an 8" woofer

    Monitor Audio S1, a 2 way design with a 6" woofer in a small enclosure that listed for $650 pr

    Infinity Primus 160's, a large 2 way design with a 6" woofer, $160pr

    Amp-Parasound Halo A21
    Preamp- Van Alstine Hybrid Ultra with current factory mod
    DAC- Van Alstine Hybrid Ultra with current factory mod

    Music- Jazz, Classical, Vocal, Blues and RR.

    To say I was surprised is an understatement. All 3 speakers sounded good to very good. The clear winner was the Monitor Audio which really came into its own here. Imaging and sound stage were superb. Mid bass was excellent and punchy. High's were crystal clear and transparent. The music had a very smooth quality. I could easily live with these speakers in my day to day system. I have been using them with a vintage 1976 Technic's integrated amp and a Denon 1920 DVD player. I had been disappointed in the sound with the S1's until now. It looks like I have to upgrade the system with a DAC and better amp to get the most out of the S1's.
    This music CD was my best reference CD and S1's really brought out the nuances of the music. http://www.amazon.com/This-K2-Sound-.../dp/B000VD9KK2

    2nd Place went to the KLH's. These are very large bookshelf speakers with an 8" woofer and the sound really benefited from the size of the woofer and 3 way design. Bass was excellent, deep, punchy and controlled (the S1's had a tighter sound). The midrange was smooth and sweet with a nice warmth. The sound stage and imaging was good but again not as good as the S1's. High frequency was fair to average. The highs were not as detailed and seemed a little congested at times. This speaker really shined when paired with higher end gear. Not bad for a speaker that cost me $80pr at Best Buy years ago.

    3rd place went to the Infinity's. These speakers excelled in the midrange and high frequency but bass was lacking some. It would greatly benefit from a sub. Otherwise the speaker had surprising detail and clarity with good imaging and sound stage. Interestingly, the sensitivity is listed a 90 on this speaker which is higher than the 88dB of the S1's, but I had to realy turn up the volume to get the same loudness.

    In conclusion, what I really learned from this trial was that you can get really good sound from inexpensive speakers when they are paired with higher end gear.

    One side note, does any one have any suggestions for upgrading the tweeters on the KLH model 900B's. It uses the 6ohm version of this tweeter- http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=279-116

    Thanks,

    Larry
    Last edited by blackraven; 06-06-2011 at 01:50 PM.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
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    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  2. #2
    Ajani
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    Yep, that's been my experience as well; sometimes pairing inexpensive gear with much higher quality supporting equipment brings out the best in them...

    Also it's nice to see that you're getting a taste of why Monitor Audio has so many fans... The sound is not for everyone, but it can be very appealing...

  3. #3
    Suspended atomicAdam's Avatar
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    Sounds like a good time! I'm not super surprised that speakers will sound better with higher end gear backing them.

    I had the $3k Zu OD running off a $5.5k amp and that was a match made in heaven.

    Most fun I had with putting in a completely off price point piece was putting in the Onkyo M282 amplifier between $600 power cable - $1000 ICs - $1000 speaker cables - $2400 CDP - $2400 speakers - and man was the sound all f'ed up.

  4. #4
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    The Technics couldn't even take the S1's to their potential, it always baffles me that many here want to hold to it's better spending more money on speakers than the electronics. I believe your experiment shows it's better when having to make a choice to put the money upstream.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    T
    In conclusion, what I really learned from this trial was that you can get really good sound from inexpensive speakers when they are paired with higher end gear.
    I just found this out hooking up a pair of Polk Monitor 30s to my main rig......10k of electronics and cables driving a pair of $90 speakers.

  6. #6
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    The Technics couldn't even take the S1's to their potential, it always baffles me that many here want to hold to it's better spending more money on speakers than the electronics. I believe your experiment shows it's better when having to make a choice to put the money upstream.
    There are loads of experiments that show the opposite as well... In fact Robert Harley (The Absolute Sound Editor) commented in his blog on the "T.H.E. Show Newport Beach":

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Harley
    Dan Meinwald produced an absolutely gorgeous sound with a Townshend Rock 7 turntable, EAR 912 preamp, EAR 890 power amp, and Marten Coltrane loudspeakers. It seemed odd to put a $3200 turntable at the front end of a system with $70k loudspeakers, but there was no arguing with the result, which was one of the show’s best sounds—liquid, communicative, and expressive.
    http://www.avguide.com/blog/robert-h...ach-highlights

    Good sounding systems can be had with either approach...

    Simple truth is that crappy electronics with good speakers will not sound good, just as crappy speakers with good electronics will not sound good...

    The issue is less about price and more about whether the components are good quality and have synergy...

  7. #7
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    Ajani, not many of you have a $3200.00 front end so RH's experience is hardly the same as what Blackraven had. Although much less than $70k the table still isn't budget gear nor is EAR.

  8. #8
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    Ajani, not many of you have a $3200.00 front end so RH's experience is hardly the same as what Blackraven had. Although much less than $70k the table still isn't budget gear nor is EAR.
    WHAT?

    So BR putting a $650 Monitor Audio Speaker with about $6K in electronics proves that expensive gear should be used with cheap speakers?

    Yet RH using a $3.2K source with $70K speakers doesn't mean anything to you?

    REALLY?

    Clearly you choose to believe what you want... Stick with your source first belief and ignore the fact that so many audiophiles have great results with the opposite as well...

    and since you claim few of us have a $3.2K source (not sure what your point is supposed to be);

    According to RGA and a few others, one of the best sounds at CES was from the Benchmark Room; where a $1K Benchmark DAC1 was combined with $7K Studio Electric speakers...

    So my point remains that the idea that you can only achieve good sound by spending most of your money on source or speakers or amp or some other formula is just silly... Too many good sounding systems violate any one rule...

  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani View Post
    WHAT?

    So BR putting a $650 Monitor Audio Speaker with about $6K in electronics proves that expensive gear should be used with cheap speakers?

    Yet RH using a $3.2K source with $70K speakers doesn't mean anything to you?

    REALLY?

    Clearly you choose to believe what you want... Stick with your source first belief and ignore the fact that so many audiophiles have great results with the opposite as well...

    and since you claim few of us have a $3.2K source (not sure what your point is supposed to be);

    According to RGA and a few others, one of the best sounds at CES was from the Benchmark Room; where a $1K Benchmark DAC1 was combined with $7K Studio Electric speakers...

    So my point remains that the idea that you can only achieve good sound by spending most of your money on source or speakers or amp or some other formula is just silly... Too many good sounding systems violate any one rule...
    This is really pretty old, I mean the debate about where to put the most of your money.

    Mr Peabody has advocated putting it upstream for a long time now, the argument being you can't improve what the source is putting out no matter how much you spend downstream. This is a "truism", to be sure.

    Personally I believe first you look at the "weakest link in the chain", (component likely to be least accurate), then you look at where you can get the most improvement for the buck. This can be anywhere in the chain.

  10. #10
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    This is really pretty old, I mean the debate about where to put the most of your money.

    Mr Peabody has advocated putting it upstream for a long time now, the argument being you can't improve what the source is putting out no matter how much you spend downstream. This is a "truism", to be sure.

    Personally I believe first you look at the "weakest link in the chain", (component likely to be least accurate), then you look at where you can get the most improvement for the buck. This can be anywhere in the chain.
    Oh yes I'm well aware of how tired this debate is... In fact in one of the reviews of the original Naim Nait (released in the early 80s) the Stereophile reviewer straight out dissed Linn's claim that the majority of the budget should be spent on a very expensive Linn turntable and what's left be paired with a cheap amp like the original Nait and some bookshelves...

    The Debate is pointless, as anyone who is honest with them-self can see that persons have success matching all kinds of systems together... My belief is more about system synergy (similar to your weakest link) approach, rather than that you must spend X amount on this component or the other...

  11. #11
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Ajani, ir wasnt just the $650 S1's that sounded good. The $80pr KLH 900B's and the $160pr Infinity Primus sounded good but the S1's were clearly in a class by themselves.. The KLH's were suprisingly good. I am going to buy the Maverick tube Pre/DAC and the Class D Audio CDA-254 digital amp kit for my son to use with the KLH's.


    KLH 900B's-

    http://gallery.audioreview.com/showphoto.php?photo=8353
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  12. #12
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    Ajani, ir wasnt just the $650 S1's that sounded good. The $80pr KLH 900B's and the $160pr Infinity Primus sounded good but the S1's were clearly in a class by themselves.. The KLH's were suprisingly good. I am going to buy the Maverick tube Pre/DAC and the Class D Audio CDA-254 digital amp kit for my son to use with the KLH's.


    KLH 900B's-

    http://gallery.audioreview.com/showphoto.php?photo=8353
    I know... I've paired $180 Technics speakers with $2K in electronics and been amazed by how much better the Technics sounded...

    There are many recipes for improving the sound of your system... My feeling is to look first for synergy and then start looking at weakest link...

  13. #13
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    FWIW at that price range the numbers can get a little out of whack because cost-related compromises aren't present so much. There's no reason a $3200 turntable can't be top notch, (not that it necessarily will be) and I've heard $100k speakers but much preferred $14k ones. It's not really analogous to pairing a $100 integrated with $6k speakers as compared to the above pairing of $100 speakers with a $6k front end.

    That said, it's not really a stretch to think that a $6k front end will improve on a $100 pair of speakers. I've paired a $3600 Onix XIA-160 with $299 AV123 ELT525M's and it was a much better than with the $200 TCA gizmo I usually powered them with. (computer setup) That doesn't mean that would be a logical way to spend your money if putting a system together. For a $4k system, I'd be somewhat disappointed with the pairing, while as a $500 system the cheaper pair was wonderful.

    The takeaway is that front end matters if you want to maximize the potential of your speakers, but you still have to think about how to get the best bang for your buck when shopping. No controversy there.
    Tim Evans
    East Street Audio
    Onix, Melody, & ACA

  14. #14
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by woofersus View Post
    FWIW at that price range the numbers can get a little out of whack because cost-related compromises aren't present so much. There's no reason a $3200 turntable can't be top notch, (not that it necessarily will be) and I've heard $100k speakers but much preferred $14k ones. It's not really analogous to pairing a $100 integrated with $6k speakers as compared to the above pairing of $100 speakers with a $6k front end.

    That said, it's not really a stretch to think that a $6k front end will improve on a $100 pair of speakers. I've paired a $3600 Onix XIA-160 with $299 AV123 ELT525M's and it was a much better than with the $200 TCA gizmo I usually powered them with. (computer setup) That doesn't mean that would be a logical way to spend your money if putting a system together. For a $4k system, I'd be somewhat disappointed with the pairing, while as a $500 system the cheaper pair was wonderful.

    The takeaway is that front end matters if you want to maximize the potential of your speakers, but you still have to think about how to get the best bang for your buck when shopping. No controversy there.
    There would be no controversy if all people claimed is that source matters... Everything matters... The controversy arises when persons attempt to dictate how you should allocate your budget... There is no magic formula...

  15. #15
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    Too bad you compared the Primus 160 and not the 150. Somewhere Infinity mucked up that speaker when adding the larger woofer.

    The Primus 150's are superb speakers and have synergy the 160 just don't have.

  16. #16
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    You guys should know by now that big fat speaker cables (they let more power through) and IC's made with Silver wire (for that bright, clear sound) are where you should budget most of your money.
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
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  17. #17
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    I finally got to audition a pair of Dynaudio Excite X32s the other day while picking up my new receiver.

    This line replaces the Audience lineup of which I have both 82s and 42s. They changed a lot. Smaller cabinets, with real wood, new drivers, and better efficiency. The 32s are the second from the top of the line.

    Before I say what was driving them, I will say WOW-these guys sound fabulous. Good controlled bass from 2 smallish drivers, great soundstage-separation-overall sound. As usual, the silk tweeters they use rule!

    These guys list at $3000 a pair and everyone says you need beefy equipment for Danes. Not anymore.

    So, they had these guys hooked up to a $450 NAD Integrated and $200 CD Player through a speaker selector.

    So here you have $650 worth of electronics driving $3k speakers with very nice sound. Will they sound better with beefier electronics, sure they will but it is not a hard line must do it that way.

  18. #18
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    Hyfi, what receiver did you get?

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