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  1. #1
    RGA is offline
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    RGA reviews <$1,000.00 Loudspeakers - Wharfedale, Athena Technologies etc., page 1.

    First the rating system:

    Speakers are rated into several categories of certain aspects of the speaker’s sound which I have tried to account for in my listening sessions. For example, the “Bass depth” rating is not just bass depth, but also how well the speaker performs with what bass it does offer. Stand-mount speakers are usually at a disadvantage in this regard but this is a fact of life and no compensation is made for those wishing to add subwoofers. If a speaker has no deep bass it has none and will score a zero. By all means if this is unimportant disregard the bass depth aspect and purchase a sub-woofer.

    Further, I have my own personal tastes in what I look for in loudspeakers. I prize the overall musical event more so than trying to rank individual aspects of treble or bass or imaging. As such in the areas most important to me I have added modifiers. So each aspect of sound such as imaging or tonality I have scored the product out of ten. However, because the Midrange is more important to me than Deep Bass, I have added an X3 modifier to the midrange so that a score of 8/10 with the X3 modifier will now be weighted 24/30.

    There are eleven aspects of sound that I have used for my ratings with a total out of 200. Each aspect is scored out of ten, with the aforementioned weighted modifiers. This is to be as objective as I can be. This also allows the reader who may value Imaging and Sound-staging more than I do to weight that aspect more and perhaps high frequencies less.

    An overall percentage is given of the speaker’s performance. Percentages above or below the middle of the range expected will affect the overall grade given to speakers. I have developed a base line of where I expect a speaker’s performance percentage to be given relative to the price of the speaker using the following table.

    Based in Canadian Dollars(Subtract roughly 30% for US figure)

    Up to $200 (30-40%)
    $200.00-$500.00 (40-50%)
    $500.00 - $1,000.00 (50-60%)
    $1000.00 $2,000.00 (60 – 70%)
    $2,000 - $5,000.00 (70-80%)
    $5,000.00 - $10,000 (80%- 85%)
    $10,000.00 and up (85%-100%)

    Note: Speakers receiving 90%-100% are given a Reference Recommended Tag. A speaker scoring less than 8.5 in Deep bass will get a LLF in front of the Reference tag to indicate that the speaker is Limited Low Frequency (In other words does not offer reference quality in the deep bass).

    For example, a speaker at $600.00 that scores 65% is performing well above expectations for its price range and will receive a Best Buy Tag.

    A speaker performing in the upper part of its expected percentile will receive a Recommended Rating. A speaker performing within its expected percentile price range but at the lower end will receive no tag.

    Lastly, an expensive speaker performing below the expected performance percentile range will receive a Not Recommended. This is my question to the manufacturer as to why the speaker is so highly priced given the performance offered up. It may very well be the case that some of these speakers outperform speakers receiving a Best Buy or Recommended tag at lower levels; however, it is not, to put it bluntly, performing to the level of similarly priced speakers or my expectations. It should be stressed that a Not Recommended Tag does not mean it’s necessarily a BAD speaker.

    Note: Any speaker ranking 80% or better will be given a FREE from being given a Question Mark. While I may deem it overpriced, high end speakers to me have attained remarkable musicality which trumps the details.

    A Speaker with a Best Buy rating is not necessarily a better product than one which receives a Recommended tag. However, a Best Buy tag in the same price range may be superior – if in doubt check the overall percentage.

    Do not be put off by relatively low percentage scores. Nothing is likely to score a 100% and very few will rate higher than about 85%. I consider speakers rating 75% or better to be high end, 70% or better for bookshelf speakers. These are rough – obviously if a Speaker has a lot of 8s but did poorly in bass response and you like subwoofers anyway it should still be highly considered. Also if build and finish are critical to you then certainly taking a 63 over a 67 makes sense if the latter is a butt ugly beast.

    Note: All speakers are judged on their sound when I have auditioned them. I have no interest in the look, finish, price or name recognition or even build quality of loudspeakers. Unless noted expect the build quality to be good for almost all loudspeakers built today at pretty much all price points. I am sure there are the odd speakers with gross defects, but that I suspect would be quite rare. What is attractive for your home is up to you just like the sound of the speaker.

    My ratings are meant for me as a hobbyist and for your entertainment. My reviews like all reviews are only any good if you agree with them. Perhaps you will be inspired to listen to something you have not heard before – and that is the best thing any audiophile can do. Spend days and days listening and comparing against other speakers. Listen in different locations with different gear in good rooms and in bad. Listen with some known recordings knowing you will have expectation bias so try listening to genres you know but unfamiliar recordings and find the speaker that can delineate differences better.

    PS. Before you ask – Yes! I have modified and integrated the system of rating along with Hi-Fi Choice value rating tagging system. Why re-invent the wheel?

    PSS: All Prices are estimates as they are sold in Canada. Some speakers sold in the US may be sold at par with the Canadian Dollar. If a speaker is sold in your area at a different price this will heavily impact which TAG the speaker receivers as the value will change.

    Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 $475.00Cdn $375.00US
    2 way stand-mount. 45hz – 20khz -- 86db 6ohm


    Well if the B&W 600 series has been around a while so too has the Diamond series and even longer. Wharfedale has been through quite a few changes over the years and mostly for the better now that they are under the Quad umbrella. These new Diamonds seem to take a page from the B&W using bright Yellow Kevlar formed mid-woofers but instead a soft dome tweeter over the Nautilus tweeter. So do you get a B&W in plain clothes? Well almost but not quite. Everything is a bit scaled down and the first area you notice about the 8.2 and 8.1 is that they both seem closed off a bit in the midrange. As a result, there seems to be a bit of roughness to the whole speaker. You can hear that it is trying very hard to resolve everything but seems to not quite get there. This is no insult at all because it does some things very well at its modest price point. For a start it has no real gross problems in any area, it seems to sound a bit dark, perhaps lacking a bit of resolution that I would like, but that sure beats some of the alternatives which seem to screech. This speaker has more bass than the 8.1 but interestingly it is also a bit more resonance filled. The speaker is more suited to less complex music in the pop range. A subwoofer augmentation may work out for you but you would have to weight that against buying a better speaker like the 602S3 for the same money as the Wharfedale and sub combo. Still I can recommend this speaker given the price.

    Ratings are in absolute terms rated against all speakers of all price ranges and ratings are not inflated because they are deemed budget speakers.
    Deep Bass 10hz to 30hz_____________________ 0/10
    Bass 30hz to 80hz__________________________ 2/10
    Midbass (80hz to 200hz)______________________5/10X2
    Midrange (200hz to 3khz)_____________________ 6/10X3
    High Frequency (3khz to up)___________________5.5/10X2
    Attack (including macro-dynamics)______________5.5/10
    Resolution (including micro-dynamics)___________4/10X2
    Imaging and Soundstage______________________5.5/10
    Cohesiveness (integrity of the musical event)_____ 5.5/10X4

    Overall_____________________________________100/200 = 50.00%

    Athena Technologies AS-F1 $499.00CDN $380.00US
    2 way floor-standing speaker - 40Hz - 20kHz +/- 3 dB – 92db 8ohm


    Well a little background provided to me by the salesperson. These Athena’s are built in China to a price point and are under the Tag Mclaren, Energy and Mirage umbrella. So nothing necessarily to get excited about but on the other hand nothing to really frown about either. I must admit that my first go round with these guys was not good. I felt the treble was lacking smoothness and wrote it off as another lousy speaker using an etchy metal tweeter. And while I still have some problems with the hotness of the treble in general I must admit I enjoyed listening to these speakers quite a bit.

    Considering what you get for just under $500.00 I think the speaker gets a considerable amount right starting with solid attack and pretty big dynamic impact given their size and a good dose of timbral decay. Add to this a pretty smooth midrange good sound-staging and a reasonable good overall sound it would be impossible not to recommend the AS-F1. You even get some competent bass for your money – not deep but what is there sounds bigger than a lot of pricier floor-standers. The only concern is with the treble. I’m not sure I would be enamored over the long haul with this aspect – but hey with it’s high sensitivity you could get a tube amp noted for taming the highs a bit and you could get a very nice budget tube system for under a grand. Overall, there is nothing really to say bad about the speaker – it offers a lot of substance without breaking the bank. They are certainly a pleasant surprise and better than most in the price range that I have heard for sure.

    Ratings are in absolute terms rated against all speakers of all price ranges and ratings are not inflated because they are deemed budget speakers.
    Deep Bass 10hz to 30hz_____________________ 0/10
    Bass 30hz to 80hz__________________________ 4/10
    Midbass (80hz – 200hz)______________________5/10 X2
    Midrange (200hz – 3khz)_____________________ 6.5 /10 X3
    High Frequency (3khz – up)___________________4/10 X2
    Attack (including macro-dynamics)_____________ 7/10
    Resolution (including micro-dynamics)___________5.5/10 X2
    Imaging and Soundstage______________________7.5/10
    Tonality____________________________________6/10 X2
    Cohesiveness (integrity of the musical event)______5.5/10 X4

    Overall………………………………………………108/200 = 54%
    Last edited by RGA; 09-03-2004 at 08:52 PM.

  2. #2
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    RGA can I get a request from you? Since it seems you have access to Wharfedale stuff, could you check out the EVO 8? Also if you have the time could you check out Paradigm Mini Monitors?

  3. #3
    RGA is offline
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    Unfortunately my dealer only carries the Diamond line. Also, I won't be back out that way for quite a while to hear the Paradigms.

    Your best bet is always your own ear. I just do this for some fun (Yes I need a life but it's cheaper than Scuba diving).

  4. #4
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    Long Island, NY

    Enjoyed the reviews.


  5. #5
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications
    Yes, RGA, your reviews were informative, and surprisingly consistent with alot of my impressions of the same models, especially most speakers below $1000. Although I must admit, I don't know you ever quantified values for "decay" and "resolution". To me it's either, "aaargghhh", "hey", or "wow".
    I wonder what the difference between a 5.5 and a 6 in decay sounds like?
    (just teasin' ya!!)

    BTW: I'd love to see you try do this with subwoofers. I tried once, and just about everything similarly priced scored almost the same, with a few "not recommendeds".

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    RGA is offline
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    Yeah any rating system gets dicey - Since I'm using more of a curve system - the more gear I hear the more some of my reviews I'd like to take back. But hey Stereohile had that problem they reviewed out of 10(10 being high end) and when Martin Colloms reviewed the Audio Note Dac 5(You know that insane $50,000.00DAC he awarded it a 55 or something. So the sliding scale kept on sliding apparently.

    Resolution for me is the ability to bring out all of the content and to be able to differentiate it all in complex passages - which ties in with dynamics and decay as well of course. But it's nice to hear one instrument with subleties located in one place and another instrument in another doing the same etc. This will be called detail by some. I of course agree with Peter's definition of Resolution versus Detail stated here - And as I tried to indicate on one of the pages ignore the AN reviews if you wish because I'm obviously biased or believe in the sound they produce so I am not hiding my bias or preference and to warn readers of them. Decay is does the sound the speaker poduces resmble an instrument - that full bodied tone of a paino or the guitar bozx resonance of a live acoustic guitar. Contrary to popular belief you do actually need resonances kept intact - good decay keeps them lesser decay does not. I think Decay is the first thing I liked about AN over the rest - it amazes me that some would call it colouration - they need to hear more live unamplified music if that's the case IMO of course

    As I said of UHF - they are using a reference system to judge other componants - but if YOU and I don't agree with their reference componants then what they say takes a bit of hit. So treat my 5.5 versus 6 as virtually being identical. Like you a Speaker falls into similar reactions for me - WOW, High end but I want the WOW, Mid-fi, low-fi, and may as well listen to the telephone.

    Again I lifted part of my stuff from enjoythemusic. Steven Rochlin needs to get his J's in a corner though because his mark for the sub-bass I would take issue with. They have different reviewers and they are obviously not on the same page because the other reviewers score into the high 80s other speakers I have heard that can't touch the bass of the J. Then again his J has been his reference for more than a decade and directly compared to the E is kinda unfair.

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