Speaker Upgrade Dilemma!!

Printable View

  • 02-09-2004, 03:24 PM
    medwick
    Speaker Upgrade Dilemma!!
    I consider myself a lucky man. I have only a moderate budget for my audio habit, and I believe that -- by sheer good fortune and by using my ears -- I have had for the past 5 years one of the most well-balanced audio/surround systems that moderate funds can buy. That system is as follows:

    A/V Amp: Marantz SR-7000
    Sources: Arcam Alpha 7 CD, Toshiba SD-9200 DVD/DVD-A,
    Pioneer DV-563-A for DVD/DVD-A/SACD
    Mains: B&W 602 S1
    Center: B&W LCR6
    Surrounds: JBL S36
    Sub: M&K MX 75B

    My listening room is only 15 x 15, and this little system gives me a clear, well-imaged, delightfully-uncolored sound that -- to my ear -- is better than that I have heard from other systems 4 times the price. I attribute it to the excellent pairing of Marantz electronics and the B&W speakers. Lovely, well-built products.

    I love music -- all kinds. Jazz, new-jazz, classical, schmaltzy pop, hard rock, drum and bass. And I REALLY love music in surround sound. The Marantz surround synthesizer does a PHENOMENAL job of creating a full, lush, believable surround sound from most non-surround sources. And the sound I get from DD, DTS, DVD-A, and SACD...let's just say that sometimes it makes me shake (and sometimes it sounds like crap, depending upon the recording!).

    So here's the dilemma: I recently was able to sequester some funds (about $1000) for a possible speaker upgrade. Due to the "feng shui" of my room, I prefer NOT to have a floor-standing speaker. I prefer stand-mounters. So, being a real B&W fan, I went and listened to what seems to be the most logical upgrade -- the B&W 705's. I auditioned both the 602 S3's and the 705's. The former sounded very good and very much like my existing 602 S1's. I could hear more detail for the 705's over my current system, and it was clear they were built very, very nicely. I coveted them?

    My local B&W dealer offered to give me a trade-in of $500 on some nice, older floor-standers I have. With the 705's listing at $1500, that meant I had my $1000 price, right? Wrong...I forgot that I also would need to consider upgrading my center at the same time. The upgraded B&W center is the HTM-7, which I did not audition but is one heckuva sexy piece of equipment. It retails for $750, but my dealer offered me $200 on my LCR6 in trade. The net cost to me for this upgrade idea -- $1550.

    So here is where I need input from you thoughtful and intelligent people. At the prices shown above, do I need to look elsewhere? I realize fully that B&W carries a high premium, even for its quality. I did audition the Monitor Audio Gold 10 stand-mounter, but I could not hear any significant superiority to the B&W 705's. I don't have time to do a lot of auditioning, unfortunately. So I have one last proposition...what about Axiom? Would the M22ti stand-mounters and VP 150 center be an improvement over my existing system? At $750 for this package, I would have some funds left over to upgrade some other things. But am I moving backwards, instead of forwards?

    So I need to hear from some Axiom fans and some B&W folks and some sensible, moderate-budget music-lovers out there. What should I do? Leave well enough alone if my system is already good to my ears? Stay with B&W, since I have loved it for so long, and go with the 705's and the HTM-7? Or take Axiom up on their "free" 30-day offer, realizing that I would probably have to pay $100+ in return shipping and brokerage fees if they did not size up?

    Your comments appreciated!

    P.S. Let's keep this focused on speakers. I am looking at other plans for amp upgrades!
  • 02-10-2004, 09:00 AM
    Bryan
    As it appears you are perfectly happy with the rest of your system, why not simply upgrade the surrounds to B&Ws?
  • 02-10-2004, 08:36 PM
    medwick
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Bryan
    As it appears you are perfectly happy with the rest of your system, why not simply upgrade the surrounds to B&Ws?

    Believe it or not, the JBL S36's, properly placed, are doing a great job. They are certainly up for consideration, but I believe the bulk of my improvement will come from a change in mains and center.
  • 02-10-2004, 09:23 PM
    RGA
    Have you considered looking around for a CDM 1NT. It is an upgrade over the 600 series and is likely going cheaper due to the fat the line was just discontinued.

    The CDM 1NT is a sexy looker and very good sounding. You may also get the matching center. The 1NT listed fro $1200.00 so I should think a new set you could get for $900.00-$1,000.00.

    www.soundhounds.com here in Victoria BC had them last time I was there and you can email them see if they have any left...that is probably a last resort. I'm surprised though that the 705 would be much more because they appear to be similar.

    I also wonder with your glowing report of why you want to upgrade? There must be something not satisfying you about the B&W's or amp or system to WANT an upgrade.

    Also, While B&W's bread and butter is the 600 series a lot more stiffer competition arises when you get up in the price range zone. For instance The Audio Note AN K for less money I purchased rather handedly over the N805. In fact the N805 dslipped from 1st to third because the Reference 3a MM De Capo also had a smoother treble response and more bass impact and dynamics. But these companies are interested in music not home theater.

    I would look at the CDM at around $1k because I think they're a great speaker for the money...but if you're upgrading your front 3 and your rears are doing the job anyway, I would also be looking at the Dynaudio Audience 52 and of course the used market.
  • 02-11-2004, 09:09 PM
    medwick
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RGA
    Have you considered looking around for a CDM 1NT. It is an upgrade over the 600 series and is likely going cheaper due to the fat the line was just discontinued.

    The CDM 1NT is a sexy looker and very good sounding. You may also get the matching center. The 1NT listed fro $1200.00 so I should think a new set you could get for $900.00-$1,000.00.

    www.soundhounds.com here in Victoria BC had them last time I was there and you can email them see if they have any left...that is probably a last resort. I'm surprised though that the 705 would be much more because they appear to be similar.

    I also wonder with your glowing report of why you want to upgrade? There must be something not satisfying you about the B&W's or amp or system to WANT an upgrade.

    Also, While B&W's bread and butter is the 600 series a lot more stiffer competition arises when you get up in the price range zone. For instance The Audio Note AN K for less money I purchased rather handedly over the N805. In fact the N805 dslipped from 1st to third because the Reference 3a MM De Capo also had a smoother treble response and more bass impact and dynamics. But these companies are interested in music not home theater.

    I would look at the CDM at around $1k because I think they're a great speaker for the money...but if you're upgrading your front 3 and your rears are doing the job anyway, I would also be looking at the Dynaudio Audience 52 and of course the used market.


    Good thoughts. And maybe your fourth paragraph says it all. The reason I pursued upgrading is because I know that there are much, much better speakers out there than the B&W 602's, even though the sound of my system has consistently proven (to me) much better than I have heard elsewhere. But the sound of system is a complex combination of the components and the room...right? So maybe I have lucked into a very nice, inexpensive combination that could be even more impressive with better speakers. Right?

    In my audio hobby, I always want to try to improve on what is already good. Why not strive for "sonic nirvana?" However, I tend to value music more than equipment, so at some point I will bow out and just listen to what is good. Maybe at this point I have lept too soon.

    I learned (to my surprise) that Soliloquy speakers, very well-reviewed by consumers and professionals, are made right here in my hometown of Raleigh, NC. So I called a local dealer, and he turned out to have some B-stock speakers (very minor blemishes) for 50 % off list. Today, I auditioned and purchased a beautful pair of Soliloquy 5 stand-mounters. They are build very nicely and sound great. I paid $500 for these $1000 speakers. Surely, surely they are better than my existing B&W 602 S1's in the mains role....right?

    Well...maybe. I am going to tell you again that my existing system, in my room, sounds so full and lush and detailed that it really pleases me. But I yanked the 602's out and replaced them with the Soliloquy 5's. And what happened? I don't know. My system still sounds good. I sat on my sofa and listened to some jazz, some pop, some vocals, some electronica. And it all sounded great. But was it better than with the 602's???? I'm too lazy to keep switching those speakers in and out. I surely did not have some epiphany of improved sound. Should I have left well enough alone? The Soliloquy's are clearly made better than the B&W's, and the manufacturer has impeccable credentials.

    What this little exercise did do was further cement my opinion that surround sound, properly done, will destroy good 2-channel sterero. Using the Marantz's synthesized surround, I got a huge soundstage (not artificial), bags of detail, and a fat, lush sound that made me consistently more pleased than with the very nice Soliloquy's in by themselves (rather, with the subwoofer....the 5.0's were clearly much happier when something else did the low-end work!). My surround sound, in my tight little room, was better than the dealer's 2-channel sound (on the same tracks), although he was using about $20,000 worth of both tube-based and solid-state electronics. And I'll tell you this....I have listened to setups with B&W Nautilus speakers with Levinson electronics that did not please me as much as my picayune little system.....not on a value-per-dollar basis, but on a quality-of-music basis.

    So I have to figure out...when is it worth moving up? Should I return the Soliloquy's and say "screw it" for a few years more? Or trust that the outstanding build and good reviews of these speakers will make it worthwhile to keep them?

    This hobby is a little crazy.
  • 02-12-2004, 06:11 AM
    chimera128
    B&Ws are nice speakers. In terms of moving up to better speakers, it doesn't really sound like you need to. From the posts I've read you sound extremely pleased with the way your current setup (pre upgraded speakers) sounded. There is always something bigger and better out there, however the further up you go ($$$) the greater diminishment in return.
  • 02-12-2004, 06:18 PM
    RGA
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by medwick
    Good thoughts. And maybe your fourth paragraph says it all. The reason I pursued upgrading is because I know that there are much, much better speakers out there than the B&W 602's, even though the sound of my system has consistently proven (to me) much better than I have heard elsewhere. But the sound of system is a complex combination of the components and the room...right? So maybe I have lucked into a very nice, inexpensive combination that could be even more impressive with better speakers. Right?

    In my audio hobby, I always want to try to improve on what is already good. Why not strive for "sonic nirvana?" However, I tend to value music more than equipment, so at some point I will bow out and just listen to what is good. Maybe at this point I have lept too soon.

    I learned (to my surprise) that Soliloquy speakers, very well-reviewed by consumers and professionals, are made right here in my hometown of Raleigh, NC. So I called a local dealer, and he turned out to have some B-stock speakers (very minor blemishes) for 50 % off list. Today, I auditioned and purchased a beautful pair of Soliloquy 5 stand-mounters. They are build very nicely and sound great. I paid $500 for these $1000 speakers. Surely, surely they are better than my existing B&W 602 S1's in the mains role....right?

    Well...maybe. I am going to tell you again that my existing system, in my room, sounds so full and lush and detailed that it really pleases me. But I yanked the 602's out and replaced them with the Soliloquy 5's. And what happened? I don't know. My system still sounds good. I sat on my sofa and listened to some jazz, some pop, some vocals, some electronica. And it all sounded great. But was it better than with the 602's???? I'm too lazy to keep switching those speakers in and out. I surely did not have some epiphany of improved sound. Should I have left well enough alone? The Soliloquy's are clearly made better than the B&W's, and the manufacturer has impeccable credentials.

    What this little exercise did do was further cement my opinion that surround sound, properly done, will destroy good 2-channel sterero. Using the Marantz's synthesized surround, I got a huge soundstage (not artificial), bags of detail, and a fat, lush sound that made me consistently more pleased than with the very nice Soliloquy's in by themselves (rather, with the subwoofer....the 5.0's were clearly much happier when something else did the low-end work!). My surround sound, in my tight little room, was better than the dealer's 2-channel sound (on the same tracks), although he was using about $20,000 worth of both tube-based and solid-state electronics. And I'll tell you this....I have listened to setups with B&W Nautilus speakers with Levinson electronics that did not please me as much as my picayune little system.....not on a value-per-dollar basis, but on a quality-of-music basis.

    So I have to figure out...when is it worth moving up? Should I return the Soliloquy's and say "screw it" for a few years more? Or trust that the outstanding build and good reviews of these speakers will make it worthwhile to keep them?

    This hobby is a little crazy.

    Well money is not the only thing to consider...room acoustics and simply what the listener, in this case YOU, are used to listening to. Our ears adjust to certain sound and when we hear something else we are good at picking out what that system is lacking and not so much what it gains. 5 channel versus two channel for instance we will detect immediately there are missing channels.

    I personally think multichannal music if it's not meant for multi-channel is atrocious to listen to. It is a false sound not helped by mass market receivers. That said throwing any old expensive system together in a bad room or an overly treated room(where treatment wasn't needed) doesn't help. I personanally don't care for Levinson - it is just grossly overpriced audio jewelry.

    I have heard the N801 sound terrible and stunningly good depending on how it's positioned and with what it is connected to. Receivers typically butcher 2 channel so it's not surprising it's multi channel is better - that is why one buys them. Processed soundstages for 2 channel discs into 5 channels are inconsitant and totally innacurate. A good set of speakers and a good 2 channel amp properly set up will create a better soundstage in the front and in movies such as Saving Private Ryan can even use rear walls to reflect surround sound signals off the wall to make you believe there are rear speakers as the bullets are flying from back and around your head. There is not tonal shif to compensate for a side-lying center channel that has a tweeter a foot or three higher than the front left and right speakers so movement from left to right on my 2 channel rig is more consistant and seamless than any surround rig I've heard where the center channel is above the tv. There is a reason that drivers are supposed to be at the same height...have you seen it? Very rare.

    For surround to be done correctly and for me not to be annoyed...all five speakers need to be at the same height and exactly the same speaker.

    Just buying something because it has good reviews is useless. Everything gets good reviews if you look hard enough. The reason I like the B&W 600 series is because I think it betters a lot of speakers at more money. The CDM 2SE was $1200.00 Canadian and I preferred it to the Totem Model 1 at $1900.00Cdn.

    In fact the 602 has a bit of a warmer bass presentation than the CDM 1NT at double the price...it would not surprise me that some people would trade a bit of treble refinement of the CDM 1 for the more warm rich bass(even if it's a tiny bit tubby). The 602S3 is a phenomally good speaker that I would not want to automaticlaly dump for someone elses 1 or even 2k speaker. Many will better the 602s3 but then again many won't.
  • 02-12-2004, 08:15 PM
    medwick
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RGA
    Well money is not the only thing to consider...room acoustics and simply what the listener, in this case YOU, are used to listening to. Our ears adjust to certain sound and when we hear something else we are good at picking out what that system is lacking and not so much what it gains. 5 channel versus two channel for instance we will detect immediately there are missing channels.

    I personally think multichannal music if it's not meant for multi-channel is atrocious to listen to. It is a false sound not helped by mass market receivers. That said throwing any old expensive system together in a bad room or an overly treated room(where treatment wasn't needed) doesn't help. I personanally don't care for Levinson - it is just grossly overpriced audio jewelry.

    I have heard the N801 sound terrible and stunningly good depending on how it's positioned and with what it is connected to. Receivers typically butcher 2 channel so it's not surprising it's multi channel is better - that is why one buys them. Processed soundstages for 2 channel discs into 5 channels are inconsitant and totally innacurate. A good set of speakers and a good 2 channel amp properly set up will create a better soundstage in the front and in movies such as Saving Private Ryan can even use rear walls to reflect surround sound signals off the wall to make you believe there are rear speakers as the bullets are flying from back and around your head. There is not tonal shif to compensate for a side-lying center channel that has a tweeter a foot or three higher than the front left and right speakers so movement from left to right on my 2 channel rig is more consistant and seamless than any surround rig I've heard where the center channel is above the tv. There is a reason that drivers are supposed to be at the same height...have you seen it? Very rare.

    For surround to be done correctly and for me not to be annoyed...all five speakers need to be at the same height and exactly the same speaker.

    Just buying something because it has good reviews is useless. Everything gets good reviews if you look hard enough. The reason I like the B&W 600 series is because I think it betters a lot of speakers at more money. The CDM 2SE was $1200.00 Canadian and I preferred it to the Totem Model 1 at $1900.00Cdn.

    In fact the 602 has a bit of a warmer bass presentation than the CDM 1NT at double the price...it would not surprise me that some people would trade a bit of treble refinement of the CDM 1 for the more warm rich bass(even if it's a tiny bit tubby). The 602S3 is a phenomally good speaker that I would not want to automaticlaly dump for someone elses 1 or even 2k speaker. Many will better the 602s3 but then again many won't.


    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I'm a pretty open-minded guy, and I've heard some very expensive systems that sounded much better than mine...and I've heard some very, very expensive systems that I was told should sound better than mine but actually sounded like someone hacked off the top end and exploded the mid-range. I learned a long time ago that cost and performance do NOT correlate positively in the audio world.

    Right now, I have a colleague who has an expensive system with a HUGE subwoofer and very, very expensive surrounds. He keeps telling me that my subwoofer is clearly inferior and my surrounds are a joke. Yet, when I play my reference recordings on his system, the bass is bloated and woofy, the surround sound is artificial and shrill. What is the real truth? Have he and I forced our ears to enjoy the sound of our respective systems and denigrate all others? I don't think so....woofy bass is woofy bass, in a ghetto-blasting car system or in a $20,000 yuppie home system. I think he listens to his audio dealer more than he does to his own ears. I refuse to have other people tell me what is good sound, when I have two perfectly good ears and 40+ years of music listening (live and recorded) on my side.

    I have listened to the new Soliloquy's in my system for a day now, on a wide range of music, both 2-stage and surround. And, in my opinion, to this point they don't add one iota to the detail, imaging, staging, and sound of my system compared to the B&W 602's I took out. I don't think that breaking in will improve this situation (the dealer says they require 200+ hours of break-in, but as a materials scientist this sounds like a fairy tale to me). I'm going to call tomorrow and ask to take them back. Maybe I'll wait another 5 years to consider an upgrade.

    Oh well...it looks like I am a music lover, not an audiophile, after all.
  • 02-12-2004, 09:12 PM
    RGA
    I can't speak to the Soliloquys because no dealer here carries them...that in itself and the fact they cut the price in half may tell you something.

    Think about reviewers for a minute. There job is to evaluate a speaker and tell you whether it's any good or not...Look at Stereophile...they review everything poisitively and yet in the same price band they have completely different sounding speakers...they are NOT reviewing for their OWN personal taste but what they think many consumers might like.

    As a buyer we're concerned what we like. Stereop reviewing is no different than movie reviewing...the reviewer is only right about a good movie if WE as individuals liked it too - otherwise...

    The fact that you didn't like one brand that was highly reviewed is not indicative of what is available.

    I have been a B&W fan for a long time because they have been making exellent speakers for a long time...I owned the DM 302s - a steal for a budget speaker. Naturally I had my eye on the N805 a positively gorgeos speaker to look at and a supurb sounding product.

    So it was with much guts on my behalf to listen evaluate and then purchase an uglier retro looking speaker from to me a practically no name company. There were no reviews of my speaker to be found anywhere...despite that I went on the sound, not the hype. It turns out the company is quite diverse and was not on my radar as high end equipment because most of their prices are simply embarrassingly high with 2 channel rigs going over half a million US.

    It took a lot to move me away from B&W because B&W has the name, the size the reviews the history and the looks and they sound good. Audio Note does not have the name, the looks, the history, less reviews...but when I set all that aside...the sound wins out.
  • 02-13-2004, 01:04 PM
    topspeed
    You made the right decision
    This is easy. You haven't made any arguments to replace your B&W's, only why the Soliloquy's aren't any better. Take 'em back and use your $1,000 on something worthwhile, like an investment. The market is rebounding right now and money is ridiculously cheap. It's pretty much free, kids. Invest wisely and in a few years you can buy some B&W Nautilus', Wilson's, or whatever tickles your fancy and have money left over!

    I am forever bemused by audio hobbyist that as soon as they scrape a small pile of dough together elect to blow it on an unneccessary "upgrade." What is there to "upgrade" if you're satisfied? Your ego? Get a grip. If you want to upgrade something, upgrade your family's life.

    BTW Medwick, this is not directed at you specifically so please don't feel offended as that is not my intention. I'm just ranting. You've got a nice system and you obviously derive great pleasure in it, which is all any of us strive for anyway. Be happy, you've got nothing to upgrade.

    Enjoy!
  • 02-13-2004, 01:22 PM
    thepogue
    I second the motion!!
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by topspeed
    This is easy. You haven't made any arguments to replace your B&W's, only why the Soliloquy's aren't any better. Take 'em back and use your $1,000 on something worthwhile, like an investment. The market is rebounding right now and money is ridiculously cheap. It's pretty much free, kids. Invest wisely and in a few years you can buy some B&W Nautilus', Wilson's, or whatever tickles your fancy and have money left over!

    I am forever bemused by audio hobbyist that as soon as they scrape a small pile of dough together elect to blow it on an unneccessary "upgrade." What is there to "upgrade" if you're satisfied? Your ego? Get a grip. If you want to upgrade something, upgrade your family's life.

    BTW Medwick, this is not directed at you specifically so please don't feel offended as that is not my intention. I'm just ranting. You've got a nice system and you obviously derive great pleasure in it, which is all any of us strive for anyway. Be happy, you've got nothing to upgrade.

    Enjoy!

    if your really going to "up-grade" make sure your moving "up" as opposed to sideways...and fer God's sakes man be honest wiff yerself...I've hauled lots of stuff back and forth and bought and sold a-many an idea!! In fact I just bought and sold two ACI subs within a few weeks...I though they would work in my HT set-up...they didn't....BYE BYE...and now fer the next wave ;) your doin well by heading back......good fer you! good luck brudda!