Bookshelf / standmount speaker impressions

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by rlow, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    I heard a few of these at the "Dutch Audio Event" this weekend. I'll give my one liners below, take them with a pinch of salt because these were impressions with music I'm not completely familiar with

    Kii3: Worth a listen. I liked them, but wouldnt spend that money as I think you could get a better setup at the price. Also heard them with the BX3 and didnt think they needed it.
    Fyne: Heard their biggest speaker, wasnt impressed. Missing sparkle and detail imo (and I thought it was kinda ugly)
    Jern: Very impressive imaging, but lacking bass (extension and amount). With a sub I'm sure they'd be amazing, I'm still thinking about them if I can vibe with the design
    ATC: Heard the SCM100 and found the mids too forward - to the point of being unbalanced. Disappointing because I always thought I'd get a 40 when I get a bigger place, but I'm not writing them off yet.
    KEF: Heard the LS50 meta before, sound good but they need a sub to complete the package

    Other impressions:
    PAP: was in a small room and the bass was just all over the place. Super disappointed with that experience. That voxativ driver was really nice though..
    YG Audio: Heard their smallest speaker (cern) and was really impressed! Could run them without a sub (or go one mode/size up), they managed a lot of bass that sounded pretty good. Was just not impressed anymore once I saw the price
     
  2. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    I listened to 3 sets of speakers at a by-appointment hifi store today. I'm recording my thoughts here before I forget them. Might be of some use to others.
    Amp/DAC - ATC SIA2-100
    Transport - An Auralic streamer of some description
    Smallish treated room with speakers about 80cm out from rear wall.
    The order below is from least preferred to most preferred sound

    KEF LS50 Wireless 2
    I listened to these immediately after my favourite of the bunch and two songs were enough to know they were not for me. Imaging/instrument separation was poor during busy layered orchestral passages. Mids weren't as beguiling as my preferred speakers. Didn't bother to listen to these for more than 5 minutes I'm sorry to say.

    Fyne Audio F500SP
    They look pretty in the walnut finish, so WAF. Treble sounded ever-so-slightly harsh. I said as much to the dealer (a friendly and obliging chap) who mentioned that they hadn't been fully run in yet and he didn't normally pair them with the ATC amp. Imaging was OK. Tonal balance was OK. Dealer seemed to be singing the praises of these speakers more than was warranted. Only had about 20 minutes with these, long enough to know that my favourites were....

    ATC SCM11
    Smooth, buttery mids that I initially found to be unnaturally so listening to choral music, but which grew on me over the hour I listened to them. I wasn't expecting much in the way of bass extension, but my test tracks (representing what I'd normally listen to) didn't seem to suffer. Imaging was excellent and stage extended beyond speaker width. Very transparent and overall well balanced timbre. I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed "Killing in the Name" (RATM). Harmonics in the opening guitar chords were revealed that I didn't know were hiding there. The repeated chords at about 0:17 in have so much space, so much air, between them in the time realm - The speakers just stop on a dime with no overhang. The recording quality on the album is far better than I realised.

    How much of this is expectation bias I wonder?

    At the end of the day, I don't know how much of what I heard can be attributed to the source, the amp or the speakers. All three pairs are better (to varying degrees) than my JBL LSR305s, but there's only one pair I'd spend my money on. I've asked for a quote on the SCM11s and the ATC SIA2-100 amp/DAC. I feel that this would be a better option than stretching for the SCM19s (which I can't audition) with an amp that is a poor or unknown match. Better the angel you know!

    Thanks everyone for your valuable advice. I'll check back in when a decision is finalised.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2022
  3. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    RAtM is a real treat on ATCs. The combination of those awesome mids with that super tight fast bass from the sealed cabs is sublime. Used to be one of my favourite bands to listen to on them. And the great thing about the ATCs is that, even though they’re fairly small, they can play really frickin loud and clean as well when you want to rock out. ATCs excel with heavy rock/alternative and metal, and anything with fast bass lines. Hope things work out for you.
     
  4. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    You left out the room. Nothing sounds quite the same when you take it home. The dealer environment is simply a base line for comparison.

    But, with a pair of speakers that seems to be well-regarded by most of our experts here, I don't see how you can go wrong: it's going to be great! Looking forward to the report :)
     
  5. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    Yep - Really looking forward to bringing these home, but will probably be a month or two away. I got a good deal buying ex-demo, allowing me to stretch my budget to include the ATC SIA2-100 integrated as well as the SCM11s.

    The current room's not ideal, but we're in the throes of planning an extension to our house in the form of a master bedroom/retreat. It will be about 35m2 (footprint of 7m x 5m with 3m ceilings) and a better listening space to the current living room. I'll be able to put the SCM11s directly in front of a large window covered by heavy curtains. This will boost the bass a little, won't it? You might find me on another thread down the track asking for room treatment advice.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2022
  6. Riotvan

    Riotvan Snoofer in the Woofer

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    Glass is actually a bit lossy when it comes to lower frequencies. It can work in your favor though, my speakers are in front of a large double glass window and it works great.
    With dual subs also in front in line and aligned with the mains it's flat down to 20hz.
    Try and see how you like it, those ATC are easier to integrate subs with if you find you need them though.
     
  7. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    Here in colder climates the usual installation nowadays is 2 layers of double sided tempered glass with inert gas inside, that is 4 layers of glass. Anyone who has installed those kind of windows or glass doors would be intimately familiar how suddenly not only for aesthetics big muscles are useful. Mass --> reflective for sound. A lot of mass --> also reflective for bass.
    Mass has to be accompanied with rigidity, otherwise the result would be a narrow band bass absorber, not unlike regular single layer plaster board walls.
    A typical weak plaster board wall is certainly more lossy than multi layered proper window.

    The wall behind the speakers should reflect bass, I have not encountered a scenario where this was detrimental.
    Flimsy wall behind speakers is very often the culprit for crap sound all around, not only bass.

    These won't play to that low that there should be extra massive back boundary. When the window is with internal frames (sturdy) and thick multi layer glass, it would likely work great.
    When planning the room, take into account the suggestion where optimal sound in a room is usually obtained by giving the speakers and the back wall some considerable distance, 4 feet is minimum. In bigger rooms more like 6 or 7 feet is better. Worst is in between 1 and 3 feet. That would get you mid-high bass phase issues. In a compromise situation always better to have the speakers directly against the wall.
    Here is a useful tool: https://www.hunecke.de/en/calculators/loudspeakers.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2022
  8. PNOS1

    PNOS1 New

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    My first post on this site.

    Rllow, also Vtory, i would like to commend you both for presenting fine reviews.
    Rlow, your review on Graham LS6 alone has highly motivated me to seek out this speaker on the used market and try to implement into a near-mid field second system that i am changing.
    Almost everything you describe sounds very close to what i am looking for. I have 4x Kef KC-62 subs and some nice Tonian-Labs ribbon super tweeters. They were previously hooked up with a pair of Lenehan ML1`s.
    I noticed Steve Guttenberg praising how well these type of add-ons can suit the LS6 which gives me even more confidence. Wide bandwidth capabilities are a prerequisite of mine. But i prefer a clear resolving non-forward slightly laid back vocal, deep soundstage, with great imaging.

    Vtory, your review on the Elac got my attention. Especially the way you describe the HF.
    I can somewhat relate already as i own the Adam S2X which is part of our kitchen digital radio system atop a large high cupboard. Most of the time it is tuned into TrippleM ClassicRock - nights with Alice Cooper.

    Are any of you guys familiar with the Crayon CFA 1.2 integrated ?
    If i go ahead with the LS6 then this is the integrated amp i will be using. It is the only integrated amp i have ever kept after many years of buying/selling amps on the used market. 6moons has a nice write-up on it if anyone is interested.
    The Crayon is SS wide bandwidth 70W RMS @8ohms. Primarily i would say is a fast, detailed, neutral amp.
    Constructed in a similar vein to Linn amps. Similar sound to Bakoon apparently.
    Lovely clear rich chesty liquid yet slightly forward almost `tubey` MF. Delicate extended airy elastic HF with really nice shimmering decay on cymbals. Bass is rock solid. Powerful and punchy yet tight and quick.
    All round it has great timbre and is well nuanced. My favourite integrated amp around 5K so far.
    It`s a soft clipping amp. It can drive a hard load no problem and seems to belie the modest power rating.
    Only problem is it MUST be left powered on. Post start-up the sound takes around 5-6 hours to fully awaken again.
    I wonder how well it will team up with the LS6. I`m guessing it might be a pretty good match. I hope so....
    What do you think Rlow?




     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2022
  9. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    Did I miss your assessment of the R3's or did they cycle through without making an impression?
     
  10. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    No experience with the Crayon or Bakoon stuff. However as long as it has some strong low end punch, you should be good unless you’re looking to get high SPLs.
    Hey sorry, I never really finished my notes on it, but will post what I have tonight.
     
  11. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    KEF R3 impressions
    D866F950-33E0-4ABB-94BE-9E79FFB2493B.jpeg

    Intro:

    I didn’t like the LS50 OG, mainly because I found them fatiguing and ear piercing through the upper mids. I also found they that lacked heft and extension on the bottom end (although that was before I had a sub). I was hopeful that the R3 would improve on these areas and give me what I had originally hoped the LS50s would be but even better.

    Build:

    The piano black version I had was frankly stunning and beautiful to me at least. The build is super solid and great quality, down to the very sturdy binding posts. The matte black drivers in the gloss black cabinet looked very cool, reminiscent of Star Wars dark side aesthetic. On a set of solid stands, IMO they look great.

    Overall sound:

    Dense, warm, smooth, rich, deep, slightly dark.

    Treble:

    Fairly detailed, decent metallic timbre with cymbals etc, but a bit dark and dull. Lacking in sparkle and bite and extension. Very non-fatiguing and surprisingly smooth, especially compared to what I recall of the LS50s, which I found bright and glarey on certain recordings. There is some air, but the treble overall seems somewhat rolled off, or at least tilted downward.

    Mids:

    Smooth, rich and full bodied. Also a touch thick and congested. The bass I think bleeds into the lower mids a bit, at least in my room and setup. This does create a very dense tone, especially with instruments that play in the lower mids/upper bass.

    Very well separated vocals, just not very open sounding and somewhat lacking in inner detail, definition, atmospherics and “breath”. Voices don’t seem like they have space around them and are somewhat closed in, even though they are extremely well separated from the rest of the performance. Vocals are warm and chesty, but not overly so or in a bad way, quite nice actually. But they do seem a bit congested or blurry. Vocals are set back a bit in the stage, similar to my Graham LS6 speakers. Personally I prefer this to a more forward/upfront stage.

    Bass:

    Deep, strong powerful bass. More than some small floorstanders I’ve heard. These have more extended bass than any bookshelf speaker I’ve owned. They need a lot of room around them unless you plug the rear port. They easily pressurize my room without a subwoofer. The bass quality can be a bit one-note however - lacking in definition, timbre and texture. There is more dull thuds rather than hard thwacks. Solid, dense mid-bass, but a bit slow sounding, lacking in snap and transient speed.

    Soundstage:

    The stage on these I found to be mostly between the speakers. Good-to-great depth and layering, depending how you set them up. Height and overall scale of the soundscape is also good. The stage sits behind the plane of the speakers - this is not a forward staging speaker (which I prefer and find more realistic, since it seems more like a performance that I’m observing from a distance, and not in my room).

    Imaging:

    This is probably The best imaging I’ve heard. Instruments and vocals have rock solid placement and focus, without being diffuse, or conversely, too pinpoint. You constantly have your focus drawn to various parts of the stage for the individual performances, but it still manages to meld together as a single performance. These speakers completely disappear in your room with the right positioning.

    Dynamics, attack/decay and plankton:

    Good macrodynamics. Crescendos are excellent in scale and impact. However, it’s somewhat lacking in micro dynamics, missing some atmosphere and subtle details. Transients are rounded, making everything somewhat homogeneous and somewhat boring. Lacking in ‘PRAT’ I guess you would say - everything just sounds a bit “slow” on these speakers, lacking in snap, crackle, pop.

    System matching and placement:

    As mentioned earlier, regarding the bass/port output, these really need a lot of space to minimize bass bloat. I would suggest at least 3 feet from all walls, and more if possible.

    As far as what to feed them with, I would suggest a front end that emphasizes dynamics and fast transients, and a neutral to even cool tonal balance to try to liven them up and counteract some of the warmth and midbass emphasis and bleed into the mids. I had to use EQ and dial the midbass down a bit to get these to sound acceptable to my ears in my room. This provided a more even tonal balance. I even upped the upper mids and treble a bit to try to add some sparkle and life to the top end, but it didn’t really do what I hoped it would. The transients are just a bit too damped and Vidar was not the amp to bring these out - perhaps something like a JOB amp or Nuforce STA200 or Kinki Studio amp would be a better pairing since they are very fast and leaner sounding.

    Overall thoughts:

    Overall I find these to be easy listening speakers with incredible imaging and seperation that wow you in a spatial sense. But there’s just something boring about the way they deliver sound. When I listen to them I just get an initial sense of dullness and darkness. Theres a bit too much midbass for my room at least and that seems to bleed into the lower mids and makes music sound a bit too thick and warm. Everything just seems to lack sharpness and definition. Vocals lack openness and inner detail and space around them. Ultimately they do some things very well, but they’re a bit too blunted and lacking excitement and resolution for my taste.

    Pros/Cons:

    Pros:
    • Strong, deep, muscular bass, easily the deepest and most powerful bass I’ve had/heard in a bookshelf speaker
    • Best imaging I’ve heard, bar none. Can disappear in your room, as long you don’t point them at you.
    • Even, consistent/corherent tonality and timbre
    • Very good soundstage if you set them up properly
    • Clean, liquid vocals with great body
    • Smooth unfatiguing top end
    • No boxy coloration at all - cabinet resonance seems dead/inert
    Cons:
    • Lacking in snap and transients
    • Slightly rolled/dark on top
    • Lacking in a bit in depth and layering of stage
    • Only a small helping of atmosphere / plankton - fairly lacking compared to others and very lacking in inner detail/resolution
    • Need some real space around them to avoid bass bloat
    Either/or (depending on your system, music and preferences):
    • Smooth/dry treble that’s missing some sparkle/air/decay and some metallic bite
    • Forward/intimate vocals and stage
     
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    Last edited: Nov 16, 2022
  12. PNOS1

    PNOS1 New

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    Nice one, rlow, yet again.
    Personally i have never heard the R3 (have heard/owned many other Kef) but have read plenty of reviews/comments.

    Curious - how long was the burn-in on these Kef before evaluation ?
    Just saying because some of your notes sound to me, possibly, as if they maybe did not have many hours?
    My experience with some Kef they definitely seem to like the extra hrs. Sometimes even beyond 300hrs to really open up.
    Many comments from other reviews and users around the net also specifically make this point in regards to the R3.
    Or did your R3 have plenty of play time already.

     
  13. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    Sounds like a Hegel H2 or Hegel H20 could be a great match with the R3, based on my demo of the H20.

    For what it’s worth, a buddy of mine has the KEF Reference floorstanders paired with a Naim Supernait 2 and it sounds great.
     
  14. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Unfortunately I don’t know how many hours they had on them. I would say I put probably 30-40 hours on them, but they were purchased used and I don’t know how much the previous owner used them. So it’s possible that was a contributing factor, but I do think there was likely enough time on them to at least reveal most of their true character. But who knows.

    Incidentally, and not exactly something I want to bring up, but Amir actually tested these and his subjective listening comments actually aligned with mine - they measured great, but he found them “unexciting and unengaging”. One of the only times I have to agree with Amir.

    I had the really distinct feeling that the crossover was holding this speaker back. Makes me wonder if a GR Research replacement crossover would solve a lot of the problems I found. Danny talks about the “smearing” and “blurring” that happens with poor quality crossover parts. That’s the feeling I get listening to these.
    My understanding from what I’ve read at least is that the Reference series is really a whole different beast - way better performance and way more resolving. Naim gear, esp the Supernait, I suspect would also be a good match for the R3 to give it some get up and go.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  15. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    @rlow do you still own your pair of LS6?
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Small drivers can make bass, deep bass even, but shitty bass, and I mean shitty sub, low, mid, and high bass. Crossovers can't fix this. A big part of the problem is that they follow the exiting dumb male audiophool thought of needing to be placed away from walls. This means baffle compensation (xover/EQ network tweak) to increase the lows by actually lowering the output above say 500Hz (depends upon the design and width of the baffle) thus resulting in loss of efficiency / sensitivity. (86db spec)

    These are OK for background music. TBH, I prefer the JBL LSR306 over these (class D, hiss, and all). There is a lot worse, and these do sound better than the LS50 which can be slightly nasty in the upper mids and highs. This is your typical speaker today and really what else are we going to get around this price range?
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  17. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yep I do, although have barely listened to them in the last year due to new kid. I’m currently looking for a replacement for near-field listening from my desk instead, which is about the only place I can listen to speakers for now.
    Interesting- haven’t heard the JBLs, I may have to try to get a listen at some point.

    As far as my own personal recommendation, I would go for the Buchardt S400 speakers over the Kefs. Not quite as low extension (but pretty close), but WAY more articulate and detailed. They’re still a bit dark/smooth up top, but far, far more resolving top to bottom.

    Another mention I would make is the Revel Performa3 M106 - Ive only heard these in a demo, but I liked them and thought they had good articulation and detail but not fatiguing to me. They would not have nearly the low bass extension as the Kef or the Buchardt however.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  18. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    Well, I have a set of R3's in boxes that I"ll get to audition in 4-6 weeks when I get the permanent power in the new house. I have a MiniDSP SHD preamp; a NAD M23 power amp; and an SVS SB-2000 pro subwoofer to pair them with. Not feeling real confident that I am going to enjoy the result.

    Kind of hoping for the best while expecting the worst. Seems to be a common thread in my life the past several years.

    Thx for the insight @rlow. The SHD runs Dirac and comes with a license. I bought the calibrated microphone and hope that I can use the SHD's digital EQ to settle the response. Then, of course, the possibility exists that I have my head up my ass.
     
  19. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Actually running Dirac on these may be ideal. Probably ideal for most speakers and rooms actually, at least below 500 Hz. And the Nad may actually pair quite well with them as long as it doesn’t lean too warm (which I don’t gather it does). Depending on how low the sub can go, and how big your room is, you may or may not need it, but it should be easy to dial in with Dirac. This could make a really excellent setup. My experience with the Kefs is only one room, one system and one guy. So YMMV. I wish you luck and good listening!
     
  20. PNOS1

    PNOS1 New

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    Rlow, congrats on the new rug rat!
    Would you consider the Stirling Broadcast LS3/5a V3 ? (For those who do not know - this model Xover was upgraded by Derek Hughes himself) Some are commenting this model is a clear improvement over all other LS3/5`s particularly deeper punchier bass more refined/extended HF and overall transparency.
    There is a fellow here in Australia (Rossb) who sold his LS6 in favor of the Graham LS3/5 for near field desk duties.
    He also tried the matching Graham bass modules SUB3`s which he ended up selling.

    Personally the Stirling V3 is also of interest to me, along with the LS6 of course with the bigger bass, for my 2nd system.
    I would be very interested to hear anyone's impressions who have heard both.
     

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