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Budget Speakers Auditioned-A noobs Take

Wharfedale Diamond 12 Series

magma

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Hello All
i started a few reviews in another thread however i thought i had many auditions and this deserved a new thread

Having auditioned a few speakers and other components i would like to tell all beginners that please dont go according to the stars that a particular component may have got in what hi fi , stereophile etc. Take them with a pinch of salt. Go and listen for yourself without bias.

hello all

Dinyaar ji here in mumbai has been kind enough to help me during my auditions in mumbai
though i had auditioned a few speakers before
I started the process all over again after hearing what dinyaar had to say about selecting a speaker.
so off i went with my test cd and notebook ( i realised cataloging was important which speakers what date what amplification and wht source)

Please note the following are entirely noob reviews i have nothing to compare them too hence the initial auditions may be fairly one sided till i move on and have something to compare to.
Also these are purely my opinions which may ( and most probably are) incorrect.

Day 1

Venue
Pro FX atria mall mumbai

Audition List
Polk TSI 200/300
KEF iq3

the kef iq3 was not availble so i auditioned the
kef iq1


model: KEF iQ1
MRP :18500 (possibly can be had for 16500)
amplification enon 1909
source: denon

now this is a bookshelf with a 5 inch driver with a tweeter built (its called Uni-Q) the argument is that this helps better dispersion for the highs

Build & looks: the build quality was great.i lived the curved cabinet design and liked the quality of the speaker input terminals.they were gold plated(at least seemed to be) and looked durable-. well looks wise its different i like the way the top has a small arch. A fine looking bookshelf

i threw at it some eric clapton,elvis,Fleetwood Mac and Lucky Ali. some test tracks like Jim Keltner on the Drums and Gary boyle
I found the vocals to be clean and the mids to be clear.i could make out each guitar string well. a little bass shy on certain guitar notes and drums,(drum rolls could be identified but were weak) but i wasnt complaining too much. its a completely fatigue free speaker.i would advice for anyone who loves listening to music rather than tapping to the music beats.
Basically a clear speaker for vocals. definetely no trance or hip hop here.
Latha,kishore elvis , sinatara sounded beautiful

Result : i think the new KEF iQ30 will be good and take care of some of the bass dept

NEXT
model: Polk TSI 200 and 300 (bass was the only diff)
MRP :15000 and 21000 (7-10% disc can be had)
amplification enon 1909
source: denon

the TSI 300 is a floorstander. a new entry level floorstander

BUild quality : the wood was not as good as a Jamo or the Kef. i would call it slightly above average build quality.Looks were umm conservative.
it has two 5 inch bas drivers and a tweeter.

i threw at it the same tracks.well jim keltner on the drums sounded amazingandthe bass notes on the guitar by clapton came alive.However vocals could not match the KEF what "effect" was achived in the instruments was lost in the clarity of the upper mids and vocals.
Not as Fatigue free as the Kefs.Seemed cloudy
More of a party speaker.

Result: yes the bass was there but lack of clarity in the mids and upper mids and vocals put me off. i couldnt hear more than 4 tracks.
Kef wins!

Ohh yes at let me say the Denon 1909 AVR wasin NO WAY as laid back or dull as its made out to be in some posts in this forum.If paired wit a lively speaker like the KEF i think its a good performer and should be considered before onkyo(speaking about music).
in budget amps i think i would put it below a marantz but not below an entry level cambridge(when paired correctly i believe a MA should go well with it too)

Now since i was at Atria i went on to the Sonodyne listening room
Venue : Sonodyne
model: Sonus 1605 floorstanders
MRP :16000
amplification :SIA 1021
source: Cambridge

build and looks : well both were pretty ordinary after seeing the KEf.Quality of wood was not great and seemed as if the laminate was sunmica that would peel off

i jotted down three things
NO vocals
No drum roll ( the drumm ROLL sounded like two beats!)
Flat guitar

Advice : i hope they could either pair the speakers with another amp or the amp with other speakers since the Sonodyne combo is not helping either of the components

Result : i thought i should not complain too much since at 9k(with small disc) the bookshelves are cheap but then i realised the warfedales 9.1 are for 10k and way better in build and sound.
so basically the first line i jotted down in my pad sums it up
"a Painful audition"
Im sorry if this seemed really one sided but "what to do?"

More auditions to follow tomm.
Next stop Designer Audio and Lakozy with Dinyaar( hopefully)
 
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magma

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NEXT AUDITION

Venue : Designer audio Mumbai

model: warfedale 9.1
MRP :13000 ( can be had for 10.5k )
amplification yamaha AVR 600 series
source: not completely sure but i think it was a marantz

stand : a warfedale glass stand ( 12k mrp - can be had for 8k - this looked good but i bet i can make the exact one for less than half the price.)

Build quality : i auditioned the darker ash coloured one. i found that build quality was comparable to polk but not upto kef standards.it was MDF with a thin outer laminate,if not taken care of, i felt it was sure to start peeling from the edges in a couple years.Terminals were small and not as sturdy as KEF , pretty ordinary nothing to rave about .i guess the build was good for a speaker for 10k.

i would say the warfedales (9.1 and 9.2) are all rounders , jack of all but no where near the kings ( dont frown im speaking of budget speakers only).
soundstage is decent however drum roll could have been better.Guitar strings are distinct but lacked the sharpness that ive heard in other. Mids are umm .. so so maybe slightly better than polk however i wouldnt say better than the KEF's ( iq1 or iq3).
for 10k however there is no speaker near it.

All in all i would say it was better than the sonodynes,Polk audio ( both models) and mission speakers that ive heard .

NEXT

model: warfedale 9.2
MRP :16000 ( can be had for 14k)
amplification yamaha AVR 600 series
source: not completely sure but i think it was a marantz

BUild : build quality was better than the 9.1 quite close to the KEF. however the KEF's had slightly sturdier and better terminals ( but only slightly)its a nice large and decently heavy speker for this budget .
all in all Good. i was impressed

listening experience was very close the the 9.1's .i would advice people having a small room under 150sq ft to go for the 9.1's.
its only the slight extra bass in the 9.2 would be required to fill a room larger than the above.Both models have the same crossover and tweeter.
Again for 14k is unbeatable BUT if youre willing to shell out even 2 k more consider the KEF (if you like your vocals more) too or READ ON!

Advice : try these speakers with an int amp. Try and avoid an AVR.
 

magma

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NEXT STOP
well Dinyaar was kind enough to be there for a good 3 hours for this one.
i thank him very much.His insight was priceless

Venue : Lakozy Mumbai
Dealer for : PSB,NAD,Monitor audio Focal etc

model: PSB image 25
MRP :i think i was quoted 24-25 k with discounts(i may be wrong)
amplification NAD 325BEE
source: NAD cd player

Build : now this was a speaker that has the best build quality ive seen so far.thick wood,heavy i think it was braced too.had lovely terminals.Make no mistake thses are also large bookshelveswith 6 inch drivers

My take : well now one should know that A PSB is completely different sounding from all other speakers especially when amplified with NAD.PSB is more of the laid back kind ,suited to lounge music.this is one brand whose speakers you can listen to for hours together (its the most fatigue free speaker ive come across yet)

However this quality is sometimes mistaken to be considered as lack of detail. i agree to some extent BUT amplify this speaker with a more lively amp than NAD and youre set!

i liked the Image 25 for the above quality, i found detail as in the KEF however it was slightly less "zingy" .Vocals were clear and played over the music ( i like this quality too).Bass was sufficient .i heard it for a good 45 mins and didnt get tired.

Now this is a big speaker. I suspect it would play cleaner with an amp larger than the 325BEE. i expect the BASS to be tighter too. i would recommed a larger amp to bring out the true Image 25 . with such an amp this would beat all of the above.Bass would also be more powerful.

However since i cannot aford a larget amp i have to let this one go.
 

magma

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model: Monitor Audio BR2
MRP :i18k (can be had for 10% less)
amplification NAD 325BEE
source: NAD cd player

Build quality : hmm. well this was one speaker where the build quality and the music it produced were in opposite directions.!
Build was very ordinary for a speaker of this price ( i guess it made up with good music though)
speaker was MDF , no bracing. speaker was light to carry. the laminate used was close to sonodyne:mad:.
the speker terminals were small but decent ( nothing like the KEF or warfedales though)

My Take : i found this to be the MOST revealing ( sometimes too much) speaker yet.
Highly detailed.
I think dinyaar said it reminded him of the 601 B&W ( he can correct me here). he suggested the sound was simialr too.
the tweeter was the best ive heard (in this budget)and had a certain lispness.Bass was nice and filled the room well.
the speaker gets your feet tapping
HOwever on some tracks i found it bright(now mind you -that too with a NAD amp!) especially "dil chahta hai and fleet wood mac" a good speaker soundwise however not an easy listener for too long. so its a trade off.
if youre gonna listen for shorter durations i think this speaker is the best of the lot

i think its one of my favorites yet (considering it fits well in budget)

i would recommend this speaker with a laid back warm amp like NAD or denon.definetly not a lively amp!
i would consider a wooden stand rather than a metal one for this one
Also cables with silver or tin not recommened.This speaker needs to be tamed
 
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magma

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model: PSB image 15
MRP :Not too sure i think MRP 21k
amplification NAD 325BEE
source: NAD cd player

Build quality : build quality was good. the same as the KEF.Fair laminate lovely large gold plated terminals.its a slim speaker with only a 4 inch driver

My Take : well i liked this speaker a lot. I would say its between the laid back easy listner the image 25 and the highly revealing BR2.
This is another easy listner,basically a plesant sounding speaker
unlike it bigger brother ( the image 25) this speaker went well with the 325bee - Detail was great though not as sharp as the BR2 but i liked it.
it played all songs without apperaing bright. Mids were really good compared to a warfedale.
yes a 4 inch driver meant slightly less bass but surprisingly i wasnt complaining too much. i think in a 150-170sq room it would be perfect

i would consider a metal stand for this speaker as opposed toa wooden

the PSB image 15 and BR2 and great contenders a 20k budget.with the BR2 this is also my fav speaker

im in a fix here- would appreciate advice!:D

More auditions to follow soon

Edit
here are links to the following auditions done later for your convinience

http://www.hifivision.com/speakers/3332-budget-speakers-auditioned-noobs-take-5.html
Post no. 49 : MA BR2 ( again ) with marantz
Post No. 50 : amp compare - marantz - NAd
post no. 51 : Quad 12L
 
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Raghav

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Thanks for your inputs on these models. I too heard some of the above speakers. I was looking for two 5.1 systems.

Was impressed by Polk RTi A3 over the TSi range. I thought they were well worth the extra.

Also heard Quad12L2 (not in the same range) at Designer Audio. I thought it best amongst what i had heard including PSB, Polk etc. May be the lower priced models will fall in the budget range. Did you hear the Quads.

Did you also visit the Audio Vision for B&W?

Raghav
 

thevortex

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Magma, why dont you audition the PSB Alphas as well? They are well within your budget. The other budget speaker you could check out would be Mordaunt Short.

Between the Image B15 and Bronze BR2 I would pick the Bronze because it has the capability of playing more full range of music whereas the Image's smallest monitor (often used as rear surrounds) lacks in the bass department. But if its vocals that are important to you over bass, I would pick the PSB because I like what they do to human voice. The voice is brought just that touch forward and while that may not be dead neutral, I do enjoy it.
 

magma

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The PSBs are smooth but sacrifice some detail in the midrange. However my vote would still go to them for unbeatable value in the <30K price bracket. The B15 loses a lot of midbass and upper bass due its smaller drivers (which also leads to a slightly emphasised upper midrange that gives the impression of more detail), but is (in my mind) uncompetitively priced if above ~17K. When I auditioned it was about 15, which is what I would consider a fair price for those.
The B25 is a good deal at 24K, on the other hand.

.

yes the B25 is great however as i said , it needs a bigger amp to perform well.the 325 is not enough.Since i dont think my budget would allow a larger amp i found the b15's driven by the 325 better than the b25's in most aspects

the B15 is 21K. (wow 15k would be a good price to pay for it but als thats not the new price)
i wonder how it will stack up against the Alpha B1
this is my next audition hopefully

Between the Image B15 and Bronze BR2 I would pick the Bronze because it has the capability of playing more full range of music whereas the Image's smallest monitor (often used as rear surrounds) lacks in the bass department. But if its vocals that are important to you over bass, I would pick the PSB because I like what they do to human voice. The voice is brought just that touch forward and while that may not be dead neutral, I do enjoy it.


as i said thats what i liked.

My descision also depends upon which speaker will perform better with only 8-10 inches between the rear of the speaker and the wall.
(side walls are a good 5 feet away)
(speakers to be loadd on stands.

Inputs reagurding this would be appreciated.
Though i guess an actual audition in this condtion would speak the most truth
 

Asit

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Great going, magma!
Just two points:
1. You keep on mentioning that you cannot afford a bigger amp than the nad c325bee. However, the outgoing marantz PM7001 amp with more wattage (if that's what you mean by a bigger amp) will not cost a whole lot more, may be around the same price, perhaps slightly more. From your review above, it seems that the PM7001 amp would be a great match for the MA BR2 speakers. Others, please correct me if I am wrong.
2. Are you going to audition Dali Lektor1(around 20K)? They have good reviews in magazines. But as you by now know the magazine reviews are something and your audition results may often be something else. Let us know if you do audition.

I am reading your reviews and others' inputs with great interest, because my dream is to have someday a bedroom stereo setup with these sort of smaller speakers.
 

gobble

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as i said thats what i liked.

My descision also depends upon which speaker will perform better with only 8-10 inches between the rear of the speaker and the wall.
(side walls are a good 5 feet away)
(speakers to be loadd on stands.

Inputs reagurding this would be appreciated.
Though i guess an actual audition in this condtion would speak the most truth

side walls 5 feet away?!! :eek: How large is your room? Keep in mind the speakers need to be 2mts apart atleast.

Cheers
 

dinyaar

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Hi Ali,
Very well written.
The CDP used all thru @ lakozy was the NAD C515 and amp was the NAD C325. Power cords were Supra LO RAD 2.5 and Inter link was Supra Bi line but the speaker cables were a VDH clear water(He didnt have supra on demo!!!)

Room is huge, ceiling is > 15 ft, barely no sound proofing. Speakers were seperated about 6/7 ft and Ali sat about 9/10 ft away from the combo. The guy started the demo on a cheap wooden stand which was playing along so i got him to switch it to a simple metal stand which is what they make on order for about 5/7 K. Very basic. Ali is going to stick his speakers to the rear wall (well almost) so no rear ported speakers for him!!!!

I didnt like the Image 25, but thought the lack of detail, cloudiness was the Nad factor but the Image 15 really impressed. The MA i am very familiar with and i was not dissapointed at all. It did sound a little bright with some hindi music that Ali played but that maybe cause the music/recordings are such. I am not familiar with any hindi stuff though i do hear some in my car on FM, but surely cant judge a recording. On other music that Ali brought(eagles,Dire straits........) it sounded good. Not bright but lively and many would opine that some level of life is needed to enjoy a stereo system.

I had never heard the Image 15 so when all and sundry would say NAD/PSB is a heavenly match, i somehow always felt it was just smart marketing. I have heard the I 25/45/55 sound much better with a variety of amps.

Bottom line :- I thought the I 15 + C515 + C325 for about 45/50K is a very good starter system.

Good luck at B'rang Ali. Get back with ur views and please call if u need any assistance.

Best regards
DK
 
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gobble

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yes the B25 is great however as i said , it needs a bigger amp to perform well.the 325 is not enough.Since i dont think my budget would allow a larger amp i found the b15's driven by the 325 better than the b25's in most aspects

The NAD c325BEE 50w RMS p.ch is a conservative estimate - minimum continuous power .Unlike most other amp makers who quote "best" figures, NAD is known to be conservative, dynamic power in the 325 can touch 80 for periods and even peak @110W. I wonder what you mean by bigger amp? 100W p.ch? Note that you will not be able to play the c325 at beyond 10 O'clock volume position in your 12x13 room.

Regards
 

dinyaar

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Gobble,
I guess he means a 'bigger' and better amp than a Nad. I dont doubt that the Nad outputs as u say only the quality of the output when u put it behind a more demanding speaker. Its fine to drive little book shelves.
Anyway i ll let Ali reply too.
Am not trashing NAD as i did own it for quite a while.
Rgds
 

gobble

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I didnt like the Image 25, but thought the lack of detail, cloudiness was the Nad factor but the Image 15 really impressed.

If the I25 sounded bad but I15 good on the same NAD, it couldn't have been the NAD :mad:

Regards
NAD Owner :D
 

gobble

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Gobble,
I guess he means a 'bigger' and better amp than a Nad. I dont doubt that the Nad outputs as u say only the quality of the output when u put it behind a more demanding speaker. Its fine to drive little book shelves.
Anyway i ll let Ali reply too.
Am not trashing NAD as i did own it for quite a while.
Rgds

quite possible. I haven't heard everything out there, so I won't reject the idea.

No sweat !! :)

cheers
 

gopi

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my thoughts on few suggestions here:
1. Dali Lektor effeciency is close to 84db and so I doubt 325bee would be suffice.
2. Marantz PM7001 should cost around the same or even less than NAD as the NAD new line price has been bumped up. However, if he found NAD/MA slightly bright I doubt Marantz/MA will be less brighter.

dinyaar,
Given that you liked MA BR2 why did you recommend I15 instead.
Also, one more thing I noticed was switching from NAD CD player to a Cambridge CD Player really smoothened out things. So, my favourite starter combo will be Cambridge Audio 540C/NAD 325bee/MA BR2.
 

thevortex

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my thoughts on few suggestions here:
1. Dali Lektor effeciency is close to 84db and so I doubt 325bee would be suffice.
2. Marantz PM7001 should cost around the same or even less than NAD as the NAD new line price has been bumped up. However, if he found NAD/MA slightly bright I doubt Marantz/MA will be less brighter.

dinyaar,
Given that you liked MA BR2 why did you recommend I15 instead.
Also, one more thing I noticed was switching from NAD CD player to a Cambridge CD Player really smoothened out things. So, my favourite starter combo will be Cambridge Audio 540C/NAD 325bee/MA BR2.

I dont think he found NAD bright. In my opinion NAD cannot sound bright. It is warm and laidback more than anything else. Maybe the OP can confirm. Now, the Marantz can and will sound bright to some people.:)
 

persiflage

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dinyaar,
Given that you liked MA BR2 why did you recommend I15 instead.
Also, one more thing I noticed was switching from NAD CD player to a Cambridge CD Player really smoothened out things. So, my favourite starter combo will be Cambridge Audio 540C/NAD 325bee/MA BR2.

I agree; firstly these days Cambridge seems to make a better entry-level CDP than NAD. Also, it would seem that CA players complement NAD amps much better than NAD CDPs do! I guess it's because NAD amps, while having a lovely warm sound, benefit from a slightly leaner, detailed source to balance things out.
 

persiflage

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I dont think he found NAD bright. In my opinion NAD cannot sound bright. It is warm and laidback more than anything else. Maybe the OP can confirm. Now, the Marantz can and will sound bright to some people.:)

Ali/ Dinyaar can confirm, but I think what was meant was that the MAs sounded a little bright on some Hindi film songs, even with NAD amplification.

Heck, I wouldn't read too much into that; there's some Hindi songs that will sound bright on the darkest, warmest system in the world. :)
 

thevortex

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Ali/ Dinyaar can confirm, but I think what was meant was that the MAs sounded a little bright on some Hindi film songs, even with NAD amplification.

Heck, I wouldn't read too much into that; there's some Hindi songs that will sound bright on the darkest, warmest system in the world. :)

Right on! :)
 
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