So I've been wanting to buy a nice set of bookshelf speakers, and I've noticed some internet direct brands being bandied about, but have no way to demo them and see if I like them. I'm hoping I can get some input here.
I am much more interested in how music will sound through these than movies. I'm not really a home theater guy. I've got about 100w RMS per channel from an old Kenwood home stereo amplifier to feed them with. (I know I should upgrade, but first things first. It actually doesn't sound bad at all)
As a point of reference, I've demoed a couple of things, and was impressed by the B&W DM601 S3's for the cost. ($425 at the time) I didn't bother listening to any of their higher end stuff because I'm just not spending more than $450 on these. I can get into something "in your face" like Klipsch for some things, but for living room applications I'd like something a little smoother and more relaxed, but still articulate - hence the appreciation for the B&W's. There will be a sub added, but I haven't decided what just yet.
What I'm curious about, is if there's another brand that I could purchase direct that would be comparable but save me some cash. To be realistic, I don't have a lot of money to spare because I sink a lot of cash into my project studio. I'd appreciate any input. I'm getting sick of the TV's built-in speakers.
The problem is that speakers are really subjective. Your best bet would be to audition various speakers in your price range and then look for the best price on the internet from a trusted seller. In fact, it's best to take one or a couple of your CDs to test them. As for the sub, I have a Velodyne that I picked up at Circuitcity about 8 years ago, which works real well for music. Just got my stepson a 10" Veodyne for some work he did for us, 10" about $260, and it does a nice job.
I can get into something "in your face" like Klipsch for some things, but for living room applications I'd like something a little smoother and more relaxed, but still articulate - hence the appreciation for the B&W's. ... I'm getting sick of the TV's built-in speakers.
I am a Home Theater Designer, retailer & installer.
I agree with you on appreciating a clean smooth sound.
Atlantic Technology speakers have just that, but so do a lot of others.
Just look for a speaker with a "soft dome tweeter" or "liquid filled"
Stay away from any horn or metallic tweeters. .....although the KEF speakers have a really nice look, very wide sound dispersion and the iQ series is in your budget. They do use a metaliic tweeter but are very well balanced speaker, one of my favorites.
As for subs, VELODYNE ALL THE WAY, they are just awsome.
A subwoofer will make or break your sound, don't skimp here. Subs create the most distortion in a system, especially ported subs, even from velodyne.
If you can swing it, plan for the Velodyne Minivee, or Minivee10 - these are my two favorite and most used subs for the price, very clean, tight, punchy and musical. If space is an issue the new Microvee will blow you away for the size.
As for your "100watt" recvr, sorry but that just not true, the inexpensive Sony's and Kenwoods of the world claim 100watts, but as they heat up you lose a lot of the dynamics that your media has to offer. There is a reason that many ultra high end system use as little as 8 watts per channel - the amps and quality of sound is far more important in how well it will sound.
That being said, the speaker is still the best place to invest, they last the longest and have the best sound/quality to price gains.
Personally I've heard the SVS SBS-01, Ascend 170SE, and AV123 X-LS encores (all under $350) and believe they are among the best deals at this price range. But since you are willing to pay (at most) 450, here some two I would definitely consider:
The first is the Usher S-520 (designed by Joseph D'appolito himself, THE man who invented the MTM design). These speakers are said to have amazing clarity and neutrality, although their weakness is bass (they can bottom out from bass heavy material).
And the second (and likely the better of the two)...the Dana 630 ($440). This model was pitted against the SVS, Ascend, and Onix speakers that themselves are very well received...the rumor is they blew these 3 away, and were very comparible to the NHT Classic 3 (a $900/pair speaker) while being a tad less bright. From what I hear this speaker is the true gem and (afaik) unmatched for the quality of drivers you get under $500. Again, I've never heard them, but this pair stood head and shoulders above other bookshelves in speaker shootouts. I would have no problem believing this speaker with it's vifa tweeter and logic midrange driver would be near neck-and-neck if pitted against my $900 Ascend Sierras, the parts are top notch. Anyway, it's internet direct so there's a 30-day no questions asked return policy.