Monday, June 30, 2014

Yamaha NS-6490 review by ZeosPantera

ZeosPanterahas a great review of another set of budget bookshelf speakers. This time the Yamaha NS-6490. Note at the Micca's being used as stands for a size comparison. 

From the looks and sound of it, these may be another excellent choice for those looking for big sound on a budget. Past reviews have also given these speakers high marks. Bookshelf Speaker Face Off 2009 results

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY ABS/PVC pipe speaker stands

I have been needing some speakers stands and wanted to try to make a DIY solution for myself. I was inspired by this example and wanted to take my own stab at it.
Overall it was a fun project, but I did run into some difficulties when trimming the ABS pipes. I have a chop saw that has adjustments on 2 different planes and no matter what I did, it always seemed to be a degree or so off. Just enough to notice if you stood the pipe on a known level surface. Thankfully that didn't seem to affect the assembly.
The stands ended up being about 3 inches to tall for the SM 65's. When I thought them out in my head I had the SM 45s on them and a slightly taller chair for seating. Total height ended up being about 35 inches when something between 29 and 32 would have been better.
They will probably be moved and used as stands for the surround speakers and will be replaced with something pre-made.
If I was going to do it again, I think I would have chosen a larger diameter pipe, these were 2 inches and I think a 3 inch pipe would be a little more stable. I also ended up putting an old 10lbs weight on the base to add some stability.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

REVIEW: Pinnacle BD 500 - Everyone Needs a Pretty Little Black Bookshelf Speaker.

Link to speaker disassembly and graphs

Pinnacle BD 500 and Definitive Technology SM 350 

My first review of speakers that maybe considered to be of the true “budget audiophile” grade. Both of them have been found on sale recently. The Definitive Technology Studio Monitor 350's were found on Newegg on sale with a $50 manufacturer rebate which brought the total price before tax and shipping to $129.99 and the Pinnacle DB 500 which has been found on regularly over the past year for $200.00. Both speakers are of very good build quality, very nice high gloss piano black finishes on both. The Pinnacle BD 500's finish is exceptionally good with a mirror like level of gloss to it. The BD 500's do feel rather light for even their small size. And the very scientific knuckle rap gives off a slightly hollow sound, which was surprising compared to the quality of their finish. However, internally they are well stuffed with high quality dampening material. 

Acoustic Guitars - Arabesque – 5 Effiel 
Both speakers kept great pace with the fast guitar plucking, and most of the quick bass notes. The SM 350s were significantly louder in the direct AB testing. They also felt more detailed and crisp. The BD 500 were smoother and mellower; but do begin to come a live a little more as the volume increases. At lower volumes the SM 350's had a stronger center image, but the BD 500 again improved as the volume went up. 

Audioslave – Cochise 
The BD 500's were more subdued though out the range; but Chris Cornell's vocals were slightly better pronounced and were never hidden under the brighter tweeter found on the SM 350s. There was bit more presence and detail to the 50 second long intro with the SM 350's. It felt like it was filled with more excitement and anticipation. 

Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man 
The SM 350s provided a very strong center image and the BD 500 were not far behind. I think the brighter tweeter in the SM 350 might have been a little forward and with a touch of reverb or distress or an almost echo like quality; it wasn't strong but it was there, most notable from 0:39 – 0:45. The piano sounded nice and solid across both speakers with the BD 500 maintaining its overall more mellow and less in your face sound. 

Cee-Lo Green – Closet Freak 
Now with the first test of deep bass. Neither speaker was very impressive or could reproduce the depth nor the volume of bass that this song requires. Again the brighter tweeter on the SM 350 becomes noticeable with a reoccurring bell throughout the song, but they also handled the high pitch of Cee-Lo's voice a litter better. Probably the most fun part of the song from 2:00 – 2:28 was handled better on the SM 350's. It was more fun and lively with particularly the impact of the horns was more noticeable. Both speakers handled the song well enough that enough though I've listened to this sound a million times, I picked up and heard back ground vocals that I have never noticed before.

Live – Dam at Otter Creek 
I was really pretty surprised with this song. Both speaker handled it very well. But I think this might have been a song where I would give the nod to the BD 500s. There is a lot going on in the guitar distortion and feed back in the song going on in the upper registers and the smoother more mellow tweeter of the BD 500 took the edge off a lot of it. Given that, during the AB testing the SM 350's would not have to be turned up as loud to get the same volume, so the brighter tweeter might be a bit less obvious. Both speakers handled the bass lines very well, solid drums and bass guitars all around. 

The Verdict? 

 It's hard to pick a winner and I don't think there necessarily is one. They are both great speakers with their own unique characteristics. The SM 350 is a fantastic speaker at the sale price point and still great at its current retail as a discontinued line. It's very detailed, you wont miss a note anywhere; but I do think it's a little on the bright side. If you value that more detailed and intricate response this would be a good speaker to start to consider. The BD 500, a good bit smaller of a speaker lacks a little in the lower bass department and was a much more mellow and smoother sounding speaker overall; and I never encountered any harshness or fatigue while listening. It also beings to shine as the volume picks up. 

My listening room is far from ideal, but it may capture a "real life" experience better than a properly treated room would. From the graph plots both inside and outside; there is a good hump at about 150hz (I'm not sure what happened @ 3 feet, my guess its some reflection that I didn't anticipate), I didn't play with any EQing but I would imagine that if this was hump turned down a little, it may liven up the sound a little bit. Either way, the BD 500's were great speakers. 

I did feel like the SM 350's created stronger center image throughout all the testing. If given the opportunity I would recommend listing to both. For me personally, my tastes are currently leaning toward the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 350. I felt it to be more detailed, I could “see” things happening better and can live with a slightly bright tweeter. 

I'll have a more detailed review of the much of the StudioMonitor line 350/450/45/65 in the future. 

I have used the Pinnacle BD 500 and matching center speaker as my 3.1 theater system and it has a performed great and I have really enjoyed them. It's been a tough decision and I did a lot of listening to both sets, but I'm starting to collect a few too many shiny black boxes so the Pinnacles will be on the market soon so I can work through the other pairs of speakers currently collecting dust.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Polk T15/R15 Review, Test, and Disassembly

The first budget speaker from a huge name brand that I’ve picked to disassemble and review. The T15 can regularly be found for in the $50-$60 at Best Buy which is what prompted my purchase and review. (From what I can gather the T15 and R15 are the exact same speaker, at the very least they seem to share the same tweeter. With the former being a Best Buy exclusive.)

Right off the bat it was by far the best constructed speaker I’ve seen in this price range. Thicker and a bit denser looking fiberboard than either the Dayton B653, Monoprice 8250 or the Sony B1000, the front face is nicely finished with what looks like a smooth plastic top surface, and most impressively it has at basic but real cross over (just a basic high pass and low pass filter for each driver). There is also some slight corner bracing going on. I didn’t weight them, but the T15 is heavier than the Dayton B652 and fares better on the knuckle wrap test.   

So did all these seemingly clear and obvious bonuses translate into a better sounding speaker for the money?

For a quick answer; no they didn’t. At least not to my ears and at least not for music. I’ll get to theater use a bit later.

For the ABX comparisons I used the Dayton B652, generally considered one of the best $50 pair of bookshelf speakers out there, since the price points are the same I felt they made a good match to compare to. Starting from the bottom, or the bass one might say. The Polk T15 was adequate for a small bookshelf speaker; it actually had pretty decent extension into the 80hz range. However, as music moved out of the bass range and into everything else the speakers response became very peaky in room. Part of this is just the nature of my real world testing environment (I had some oddly flat outdoor measurements throughout the midrange and up into 3khz or so). The end result was something that sounded very much like many voices were being projected through a tube. Following this, is a huge drop off in treble response starting at 2.5khz and really lasting though the rest of the audio range. This was seen in both indoor listening environment testing and outdoor testing. The Polk T15 might as well be the bastard offspring of the Monoprice 8250 and the Sony B1000.

When it comes down to it, musically these speakers are just not good performers out of the box. So I decided to use these speakers as my first attempt to make my own EQ files using REW. After a few go arounds I feel like I actually got some decent sound out of them. They became much more musical, the tube like sound was gone and I started to enjoy them as much as I have some of the step up speakers I’ve been listening to. So they do have some potential if you take the time to take some room measurements and EQ as needed.

As a basic home theater speaker, I didn’t encounter any of the obvious issues I did with music. I watched plenty of TV and movies, with The Avengers being my final test. Now they didn’t blow my socks off or anything but they were a vast improvement form the Samsung F6300’s built in speakers. If you intend to us them in this application I think you could so worse. The Polk T15 would probably be a serviceable surround speaker for any of the other similar Polk products. 

One thing I did take away as a whole, was that with a little bit of time spend working on an EQ file, these speakers really did become pretty pleasant. I don’t think it would be worthwhile to spend much time on room treatments or anything like that. But once EQ’d (a good) bit these were not bad. However out of the box I would still pick the Dayton B652 without question. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Frequency Graph comparison: Polk T15 vs Dayton B652 vs Definitive Technology Studiomonitor 350

The Polk T15 is a small entry level book shelf that generally retails for $99.99. It has recently been on sale at Best Buy for $59.99 and can be found as low as $49.99 during Black Friday sales. It is a good looking well build inexpensive bookshelf speaker, but I haven't seen much in the way of reviews of it. So I thought I would give my hand at it.

Details on the above graph:

  • Speaker test Polk T15, Dayton B652, Def Tech SM 350.
  • All were tested with REW using a Dayton UMM-6 usb mic placed in the listening position pointed forward. 
  • 1/6 octave smoothing.
I have been using them as my main set of speakers for the last few days, but have not been overly critical in my listening (critical listening and more detailed measurement are to follow). From my initial impression, they are not the most musical speaker, however they are better than the Monoprice 8250 and the Sony B1000. I did find them pretty enjoyable for TV, movies and games. 

This was just a quick comparison test between the 3 speakers and more detailed tests are to come, but I was again surprised by how comparatively flat the Daytons are. I enjoy the Def Techs the most, they are very nice speakers when found on sale/clearance they are almost unbeatable. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sony SS-B1000 Bookshelf speaker frequency response and disassembly

Disassembly Images 

I bought this bookshelf about a month ago with the intent to tests and compare it along with some other budget speakers (Dayton B652, Monoprice 8250, Infinity Primus P153). I wasn't really interested in posting anything in depth on it because after even a quick ABX against the Dayton, it was clear the Sony B1000 was not a very capable speaker.

However it has recently been featured on WOOT

and on a few audio/HT posts on Reddit so I wanted to give my Average Joe input. To be short, this speaker sucks for $68.00 at Walmart it cost. It sucks at any sale price you can find it.

The hump between 80hz and 180hz has been common in all the speakers I've tested. I'm thinking its some sort of room resonance, or possibly characteristic of the cheap speakers. I will have a better understanding when I'm able to test the Primus 153 and Def Tech 350's I have. And in this respect it is not all that dissimilar from the popular Dayton B652. In my original listening comparison I noticed that all the highs just seemed to vanish. When I began the frequency response test it became very obvious as to why. There is a 5-10db drop starting at ~1.25khz and continuing until 6khz.. Thats huge! Now thankfully there isn't any huge peaks in higher registers that would make this speakers especially tiring to the ears.

You could probably EQ away some of this and find a better middle ground but for me it wasn't worth the experimenting.

On the plus side, they are constructed very well. Better materials than the Dayton's or Monoprice's as far as the enclosure is made. So they at least look OK.

The graph is an average of 4 measurements taken of the speaker. 1) Mic ~5 inches from speaker, pointed straight on and along the center plane of the speaker.  2) Mic ~3 feet from the speaker, pointed straight on and along the center plane of the speaker. 3) & 4) ~ 3 feet from the speaker and 25 degrees to the left or right pointed straight on and along the center plane of the speaker

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Another killer deal at Newegg Pioneer FS-51 tower for $99 after rebate at Newegg

Pioneer SP-FS51-LR Floorstanding Speakers Pair

This is a great deal on some pretty highly reviewed entry level towers. They are the older model from the current Andrew Jones Pioneer line of speakers. But at this price you would be hard pressed to beat them. Get them while they last!