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Old 9th June 2005, 01:14 PM   #1
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Default My listening review of every store bought <$30,000 speaker

Hello all,
yesterday I spent the day in audio heaven... running all over this state auditioning the best of store bought speakers... Paradigm, B&W, Wilson, Magnepan, Martin Logan, Mcintosh.

to do my part as a currently learning audiophile I thought I would give my hopefully unbiased feelings about every one of them... also I took a friend and will give you her impressions...

the songs played were several 3 doors down songs (one of them live) which I used as a reference as I saw them in concert 1 week ago from this audition (good reference no? ) also I used some classical tracks from mozart, etc. I also used some punk rock like Sum 41 etc... listening tests on every speaker was a minimum of 2 songs... and on most I listened to 5+

let's get to it: Please take the time to read it all as I spent 10 hrs of my time gathering this

Paradigm 11 ($1000 a pair) - 10 feet away - powered by Yamaha receiver 120x5
highs were quite extended. I believe these are the best speakers at $1000 out right now. it was missing significant low end material. Standing up I noticed that the midbass (what little there was) was still pronounced but midrange and highs all but disappeared. 4 meters away the highs were better while standing but SPL was dramatically reduced

Paradigm 100 ($2200?? a pair) - 10-20 feet away- powered by mark levinson
the midbass problem with the 11s was fixed. midrange was muddy and harsh at times. Vocals generally were strong but also could overpower midbass. Off-axis reponse was improved but like the 11s distance dramatically reduced output. There was no midbass impact at any signifcant distance over 3 meters away.

Paradigm Signature S8s ($6000+ a pair) - 10-20 feet away
vocals were strong and pronounced and hardly ever over powered the strong midbass. standing up hardly did anything to SQ even within 10 feet. midbass was strong. There was a thump in my chest with some songs.

Martin Logan Ascent i ($4600 a pair) - 10 feet away in a very nice sound room (only room in all tests I was in that was DESIGNED well)
there certainly was a distinct lack of midbass output, even with that 10/12 in the bottom. the ESLs dipole effect was quite breath taking in this room even though they were only 1.5 feet from the back wall. sound did not change at all while standing and walking around the room. Massive sweet spot. Highs could have been improved significantly with a dual ESL design like the E2 statement.

B&W 803 ($6000+ a pair) - 10-20 feet away- heard this at 2 different shops.
guitar music seemed very transparent. Standing up noticeably changes sound to the detriment of the speakers. deep midbass. the tweets were unimaginably harsh. I absolutely hated them, as did my friend. She in fact hated them so much that they gave her a headache and she had to leave. The tweeter was AWFUL.

Wilson Watt Puppy 7- ($24,000 a pair) - 10 feet away- chase amplification
Words can not describe this speaker. It amazed me. there was a breath taking "innocence" to the music I listened to. the midrange and tweeter is what I loved most about these. The guitar was incredible. you could hear as the soloist would pluck his string and hear the reverberations as they came off. I heard more "music" from these then I realized was ever recorded in those songs. They were incredibly dynamic

Wilson Sophia ($11,000 a pair) - 10 feet away- simple amplifier configuration
it seemed obvious to me what wilson did with the puppy. They simply stuck the puppy part on the sophia and just put large midbasses in the watt puppy 7 to make customers "value" that $13,000 price difference. Midrange was the same as the Watt 7 as were the highs. Midbass was lacking, however, it was simply because wilson used smaller midbasses (did this on purpose of course to sell the Watts)

B&W 802 - ($12,000 a pair) - Chase amplification
problem with the very very harsh tweets was fixed with these. they however still lacked midbass when compared to the wilson's. it sounded good. But not anywhere near any of the speakers in it's price range. no where near as dynamic as the wilson. Midrange is too subdued

B&W 800- ($16,000+ ???) - again the same Chase amps
better than the 802 significantly. all the components finally seemed to fit together. However switching between these and the Sophia's made me and her instantly realize that the midrange and highs were no where near as dynamic as the wilson's. midbass was strong, but the watts ate them alive.

Magnepan 20.1 ($19,000++++++????) - mark levinson powered
for have such great praises I was very disappointed. there was quite a lot of bass output, however their low efficency seemed to "mask" the music. there seemed to be a fog throughout all the music I listened to. I came to the conclusion that these speakers simply seemed to "reproduce" music but had no uniqueness or personality. they seemed to be saying, "look a me I play music well", but not a thing stood out to me.

Martin logan summit ($10,000+ a pair)
beautiful sounding. highs were not as extended as the watts, but it was a single panel ESL so I took that into account. My friend liked this one the best. She liked that the highs were pretty much non-existant. it was undoubtably a great speaker. The midbass was loud and the midrange was room filling. these pretty much killed the Sophias, but didn't quite have the dynamic nature of the Watts. it made me wonder what the E2 statements sound like.

Mcintosh XRT29 (no midbass model) ($18,000+?? a pair)
these are the ones I listened to for the least amount of time. Not because I couldn't listen longer, but because they absolutely sucked. I was so disappointed. there was little to no impact in the midbass. They were soooo tweeter heavy that I honestly couldn't take it for long. they were the loudest by a long shot, but sounded the worst. they were so "in your face" that they sounded like cow dung.

Well thanks for reading... hope this helps someone, somewhere. remember these are just MY OPINIONS and my friend's. I just wann a present my views on these speakers.

favorties for my friend and I:
Me: Wilson watt Puppys
Her: Martin Logan Summits
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Old 9th June 2005, 01:23 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing. Do they all use the same CD player and preamps?
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Old 9th June 2005, 01:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by chris ma
Thanks for sharing. Do they all use the same CD player and preamps?

the Sophia, Watt puppy, ML summit, Magnepan, and B&W 800 all shared the same preamps and CD player

BTW the friend I brought along is not an audiophile by any means... but she has good ears...

to name to top 5 in IMO in order:
1. Watt Puppy 7
2. ML summitt
3. Paradigm S8
4. Wilson Sophia
5. ML Ascent
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Old 9th June 2005, 07:52 PM   #4
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no interest?
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Old 9th June 2005, 08:11 PM   #5
RJ is offline RJ  United States
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It was a good read.
I checked out those WattPuppies on the web and they look nice.
The reason was earlier on this site someone was trying to clone them as a DIY project.
I'm not really that interested in 3-ways but I do try and keep up with the news. I personally like line arrays & 2-ways with subs.
I have checked out high priced speakers at boutique shops and found them to be way overpriced. Good thing I can build my own!!!!
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Old 9th June 2005, 08:17 PM   #6
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Dear All,

One of the joys of this hobby is the subjectivity of it all.

What floats your boat is an anchor to others.

I personally love Magneplanars and Martin Logans.

I do not like Wilson Speakers except for the WITT which was discontinued so what do i know.

B&W leave me cold and yes the tweeters can be fierce with the wrong amps.

My favourite speakers of all time are :

QUAD ESL 57 i had 2 pairs over the years and loved them.
A friend had a stacked pair which were truly WIFE haters but sounded amazing.

Orthophase i have 2 pairs and they are fascinating as well as having that electrostatic sound quality but also having power and dynamics.

I also love my large corner horns, astonishing what a 1940's design (using modern drive units) can achieve.

I also build my own speakers for fun and have 2 transmission lines, 2 sealed boxes one of less than 2 litres the other larger over 13 litres. I have 2 vented enclosures one of 60 litres the other just over 100 litres. One of these the mid is open baffled.

I have also built open baffled speakers .

Basically i love speakers.

Other speakers that would not live in my lounge include Linn, NAIM, and most of the major players.

I like the more imaginative/weird designs.

So keep listening and you will learn to listen for what you enjoy in a loudspeaker, and hopefully purchase wisely.

I have a pair of speakers that were built in 1959 which i still occassionally use Ge'Go Orthophase OR3 W4.

Wonderful beasts

regards David


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Old 9th June 2005, 08:17 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by RJ
It was a good read.
I checked out those WattPuppies on the web and they look nice.
The reason was earlier on this site someone was trying to clone them as a DIY project.
I'm not really that interested in 3-ways but I do try and keep up with the news. I personally like line arrays & 2-ways with subs.
I have checked out high priced speakers at boutique shops and found them to be way overpriced. Good thing I can build my own!!!!

so true... buidling is obviously what I will do...

the watt puppys can be cloned for $900 in parts and then wood and time...

not much considering how amazing they sounded....

I more undertook this day out to get a basis for my personal master project over the summer... it was quite helpful as I was able to hear the advantages and disadvantages to every design

I like arrays also... very good stuff... I was just so agast at those Mcintosh ones... I cannot emphasis enough that they were sinfully bad
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Old 9th June 2005, 08:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by DAVOhorn
Dear All,

One of the joys of this hobby is the subjectivity of it all.

What floats your boat is an anchor to others.

I personally love Magneplanars and Martin Logans.

I do not like Wilson Speakers except for the WITT which was discontinued so what do i know.

B&W leave me cold and yes the tweeters can be fierce with the wrong amps.

My favourite speakers of all time are :

QUAD ESL 57 i had 2 pairs over the years and loved them.
A friend had a stacked pair which were truly WIFE haters but sounded amazing.

Orthophase i have 2 pairs and they are fascinating as well as having that electrostatic sound quality but also having power and dynamics.

I also love my large corner horns, astonishing what a 1940's design (using modern drive units) can achieve.

I also build my own speakers for fun and have 2 transmission lines, 2 sealed boxes one of less than 2 litres the other larger over 13 litres. I have 2 vented enclosures one of 60 litres the other just over 100 litres. One of these the mid is open baffled.

I have also built open baffled speakers .

Basically i love speakers.

Other speakers that would not live in my lounge include Linn, NAIM, and most of the major players.

I like the more imaginative/weird designs.

So keep listening and you will learn to listen for what you enjoy in a loudspeaker, and hopefully purchase wisely.

I have a pair of speakers that were built in 1959 which i still occassionally use Ge'Go Orthophase OR3 W4.

Wonderful beasts

regards David



I personally loved ESLs... those summitts rocked....I'm very anxious for my appointment in South Carolina to hear the E2 statement...

I think that ESLs can destroy those puppys.... just not single panel ones that don't play very high...

still what do I know... my friend loved those summit's
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Old 9th June 2005, 08:45 PM   #9
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Audiophilenoob
[B]



the watt puppys can be cloned for $900 in parts and then wood and time...

I was wondering what the purpose of your "Mega Expensive Boutique Loudspeaker Audition" was all about on a DIY site, but now it's obvious that it can be a great way to decide what kind of design one wants to clone/copy/emulate in a DIY project - just go out there and find your favorite sounding high-end speaker and do your best to recreate it at home. This leads me to two questions:

1) Just what drivers does the WATT/Puppy use?

2) How well can a clone be made? I know Wilson uses a VERY costly "phenolic resin" for their enclosures (supposed to be the most acoustically inert material around, unless NASA or the Pentagon has something they're not telling us about). But also it seems to me you would have to know how, and with what, they build their crossovers, and I also believe that some high-end makers (Wilson for one) actually make some proprietary modifications to the drivers they use, and/or use drivers built exclusively for them and to their specs, which aren't available to the general public.
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Old 9th June 2005, 09:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
2) How well can a clone be made? I know Wilson uses a VERY costly "phenolic resin" for their enclosures (supposed to be the most acoustically inert material around, unless NASA or the Pentagon has something they're not telling us about). But also it seems to me you would have to know how, and with what, they build their crossovers, and I also believe that some high-end makers (Wilson for one) actually make some proprietary modifications to the drivers they use, and/or use drivers built exclusively for them and to their specs, which aren't available to the general public
so what if you dont have the Phenolic resin.... Just beacuse it's the most acoustically inert material available doesnt mean you cant construct an enclosure just as acoustically inert as theirs using other materials and DIFFERENT construction methods.

Using the right drivers and crossovers IS very important however... Copying a crossover isnt very hard though, all you have to do is measure the component values and use the same.

Wilson does claim rediculis things though like that they've done hours of listening tests on every component of their speakers such as the connectors. If they think they can tell the difference between connector A and connector B and they're both gold plated 10gauge or larger connectors, well they're on LSD or something!
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