Wednesday, November 18, 2015

JBL Loft 40: Review, Measurements and Comparison

JBL Loft 40: Review, Measurements and Comparison

For a good part of the last year, the JBL Loft 40's have become a popular budget suggestion on due to some steep discounts from their original retail price. The product line didn't last very long and appears to have become discontinued, so once the existing stock is gone I wouldn't expect many more to be found.

I had previously done a Harman Kardon shoot out where I reviewed and compared the smaller 4 inch JBL Loft 30's and Infinity p143's, I will be doing the same with the larger 5.25 inch JBL Loft 40's and Infinity p153's.

So how do these often recommended speakers perform and stack up?

Before we get into the measurements and audio quality, let's just take a quick look at the size and build quality of the Loft 40's vs the Infinity Primus p153

Please excuse the following potato quality photos.

The Infinity p153 dwarfs the Loft 40. It's not really a fair comparison. Construction quality on the Primus line far exceeds that of the Loft. The Primus p153's are significantly larger, heavier and pass the very scientific knuckle rap test with aplomb. Where as the JBL Loft 40's are pretty light weight and ring very hollow. The Primus's are little tanks for budget speakers. 

Taking off the grills reveals a boring black box and a pretty dated looking bigger box

To be honest, neither speaker is very exciting to look at without the grills on. The Primus are especially dated looking with the two tone black and light grey. The Loft 40's are just another black box. I really hope that the Primus line gets a redesign or at least a refresh soon; they are pushing a decade old.

Measurement's and Review:
How do the JBL Loft 40's actually sound?

Here with the close mic driver measurements we can see a lot going on. It's quite a bit different than what the smaller Loft 30 does. 

Starting with the port, it has decent output to 50hz, and has relatively little port noise which is a nice bonus. 

Moving on to the midrange driver, things get a little ugly. It doesn't play very flat, there is a -10db slope across it's output. There is also a huge dip at 1.5khz that looks unrelated to any sort of null, it also have significant output to 5khz, where it drops off incredibly fast.

The tweeter on the Loft 40, seems to have a very different implementation than on the Loft 30. The Loft 30 tweeter played well enough flat without any significant peaks or valleys. While the tweeter drivers look to be the same between the Loft 30 and 40, the Loft 40 appears to cross it over much higher at about 4khz.

While I couldn't find any published documentation from JBL crossover, they both use the same layout. And while I have very limited knowledge of crossover design, they appear to have different valued parts. The Loft 30 uses a cap with a 3.3j 100v value, while the Loft 40 uses a 335j 100v value. In the end, the tweeters measure very differently. 

Some good news is that the grills are pretty transparent.

At 1 meter without any rear boundary you get usable output to about 80hz with a hump at ~150hz which matches the close mic measurements. 

It's the long and low valley from 150hz-1khz that really take away from the quality of the speaker. A vacuum of midbass and midrange that give the Loft 40 a hollow and tinny sound.

The same dip a 1.5khz as seen in the close mid measurements is seen in the 1m measurements. 

With how high the tweeter is crossed over, it's not doing all that much. I don't think the tweeter is the weak link in the speaker. As the same tweeter in the Loft 30 measures much better. The midrange driver is where the deficiencies lie with the Loft 40.

Off Axis Measurements

It isn't until you get to about 20 degrees off axis that the tweeter really loses output. You can see what looks like the peak in output at the 4khz cross over point. I guess that's better than a null, a bit easier to possibly EQ out. 

Maybe EQing out the peak and using zero toe in might yield ok results if you don't have too reflective of a room. But that's a bit of work for such a cheap speaker.

Vertical axis measurements look pretty typical, with significant nulls at +/- 15 degrees

Comparisons with the Loft 30 and Primus p153

Comparing the Loft 40 to the Loft 30 shows that they actually end up measuring pretty similarly. Voiced matched for sure. 

The Loft 40 predictably plays lower, they both share the similar midbass spikes followed by a wide valley about -5db until 1kh. The tweeter on the Loft 30 plays flatter.

With the height the speakers are during the measurement process, things should be accurate down to ~600hz, where everything after will only catch major output difference.

Comparing the Loft 40 with its Harman Kardon cousin, the Infinity Primus p153 is without a doubt the flatter playing speaker. It doesn't suffer from the valley in the midbass and lower midrange that the Loft 40 does. And it may play a little deeper if they are going to be away from a wall. However during all my desktop listening, the JBL's did seem to have the edge on bass depth, I believe due to the rear facing port and gain from the rear wall than being the better driver.

None of the Infinity Primus line are bass monsters by any stretch, since it's from ported there isn't going to be any potential gain in the lower octaves from their position relative to a wall. In my opinion the whole Primus line, regardless of your placement, should really be accompanied by a subwoofer.

The upper registers on the Primus p153 are just a touch flatter for the most part, but both speakers share a similar a similar bump after 10khz.

With the steep discounts the now discontinued JBL Loft series has become an inciting option for bargain hunters. On sale for under $50 makes these a good bit better of a deal than the were at their original retail price. 

But that doesn't mean I think these are good speakers. But they would be serviceable if you were going to try your hand at digital EQing for if you were going to use them for more limited content like rears in a surround sound. If rear fill is the case, then by all means this will probably do the job well enough.

There is just no way I could have recommend them for any type of use when they were selling for $180 to $150 a pair.  

If you really needed $50 speakers I would look into the Insignia NS-SP213 if you are also planning use a sub, it's cheap well built and easily found speaker at Best Buy, or if you can save a few extra dollars the Micca MB42-X's are a good choice. Obviously both the current offerings from Pioneer and Infinity will best the JBL Lofts also, and easily remain the two go to picks for new hobbyist depending on their musical preference.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

DIY Home Depot Desktop Speaker Stands

DIY Home Depot Desktop Speaker Stands

I needed some new sort of speaker stand to lift up my current KEF Q100's off my desk and I remember seeing these speaker stands made by Tek Everything as seen in their YouTube tutorial here.

I thought this would be a good DIY starting point, but as I can't leave anything well enough along and though there were some possible improvements to be made, so I gave them a try with a hopefully a few improvements.

Overall these are pretty easy to build, and seem to do a good job lifting the speakers closer to ear level and preventing vibrations into the desk.

I should have taken a bit more time with the construction, as there was a bit more mess from the epoxy than I had hoped.

Pictures are just a 1/2 step better than potato quality, but it should get the job done


Construction Pictures 

There were the materials I picked up at Home Depot.

4 drainage grates, 2 PVC couplings, a roll of rubberized foam padding and some DAP glue/sealant.

Eventually, I would ditch the DAP in favor of Gorilla Glue 5 minute epoxy, and I would use a heavier duty drainage gate to get some additional height and weight to the stand.

A higher number is better right?

I needed a way to seal up the drainage gates so that I could fill them with sand. The easiest solution was to use the foam mat to both seal and pad the soon to be stand.

So far it seems to be permanent solution.

Spray a bunch of the Super 90 on both the mat and the drainage grates and let them sit and get tacky for a few minutes.

I only wanted to fill them about 1/2 with sand so that I could make sure the base would be able to fully mount to the coupling.

I decided to use a bigger heavier duty grate for the base of the stands. This would let me get more sand and weight, and lift them up an extra 3/4 of an inch or so.

There was lots of tamping to get the sand to compress as much as possible.

Once the sand was about 98% full, I screwed on the grill to the grate and then poured sand on top to fill in the grated area. Once that was full and leveled off, a similar process of spraying Super 90 onto the grill/exposed sand and mat, then letting it dry and pressing it all together.

Base and foam being glued, exciting stuff!

I didn't know what to finish them in, and just about nothing sticks to PVC. So I tried Plasti-Dip.

Turned out just OK. These definitely aren't lookers but they are pretty functional. Working as fast as I did, didn't help as some of the epoxy did drip

And here they are again, complete and on the desk.

You'll see that there is also some heavy duty duct tape around the center. A few grains of sand would shake or fall out of the top portion. I don't think I used enough epoxy to seal up the coupling well enough.

I also put additional rubber pads at the 4 corners and in the dead center of the base as the base was was slightly sticking to the wood desk and didn't make for very easy re-positioning.

I think this process can yield a nice set of cheap stands and be a fun project. Just take a little more time with it than I did so you wont be so sloppy, and probably double the amount of epoxy used to ensure a air tight seal at the coupling.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Micca MB42x MK III review: Late to the party but I still showed up!

Micca MB42x MK III
Late to the party but I still showed up!

For a little more than a year, the Micca MB42x has been the cheap/budget audiophile darling. Plenty of good user and a few good technical reviews have established these speakers as a solid option for those wanting to take their first step in to good sound reproduction. Having spent time just about every other speaker in the same category it was high time I got myself a pair to see what the hype has been about.

I picked up the newest revision of the speaker the the MK III, the cross overs have been improved to 18db per octave slopes, over the previous 12db per octave and all the drivers have been stamped with MK III on them (though I don't know if the drivers have actually changed at all). 

How do they Sound?

In some ABX testing with the Infinity Primus p143, the Micca's compared very favorably. At times it was very difficult to find a marked difference between the two speakers. The most obvious plus for the Micca's is able to play lower. Though none of the Primus bookshelf speakers are bass monsters. But when there was a lot of energy being played in the 1-4khz band it wasn't all that hard to tell that something was off with the Micca's. Not necessarily bad, or distracting, but different and thus not as "right" as the Infinity's do it. The good news, that it's a relatively gradual hump so it's not a smack in the face, more like a gentle reminder that these are still very budget minded speakers.

While not a rail flat playing speaker, The Micca's are solid performers for the price point. Though it seems that that price point keeps creeping up with their popularity. At between $70-$90 I think these are good options. But if the Micca's ever get back into the $100 range (they are $94.12 with Amazon Prime as of this writing), as they did when the apparent switch to the MK III happened, I think people will be better served by going to the $120+ range of the Pioneers and Infinity's.

Here is the resent price history of the Micca's

I was pleasantly surprised that the Micca's lived up to the hype they have enjoyed the last year or so. If you already have them, I wouldn't upgrade unless you were looking to spend $150 or more, or you needed something bigger/louder.

If you are still deciding on what you want, then overall the Primus p143 is a flatter playing and measuring speaker and much better built. But the Primus also cost about 50% more unless on a deep sale.


Close mic driver measurements 

Starting with the port measurement (RED), this little speaker plays pretty low for it's size. Looks to be tuned about 50 hz or so. Even being 2+ feet from a rear wall, it plays lower than the Infinity p143 with it's short little front port.

The Midrange driver (BLUE) does a pretty solid job, There is a little bit of elevation and jaggedness from 1-1.5khz; which doesn't seem to be too offensive in the close mic measurements but does appear to grow a bit in amplitude in the 1m measurements. This rough patch is followed by a sharp drop followed by a slow roll off.

It looks like drivers are crossed over at 3khz, and the tweeter does a good job of being pretty flat with the grill removed (PURPLE).

1m outdoor and gated measurements, overlayed with drivers.

Overlaying the 1m outdoor and gated measurements (should be accurate to ~600hz) with the close mic measurements. Shows smooth broad hump from about 700hz-2khz, with it's peak matching the roughness out of the woofer, and some of the port noise, though I think that is coincidence. That hump falls back down a bit, at the same point where the woofer has it's notch, and then another bit of a peak at the cross over point. The woofer seems to be pretty capable on the low end, but I think that issues that to exist are related to the woofers upper end response.

Micca MB42x MK III 1m Horizontal axis measurement

The Micca's do a pretty solid job at maintaining good dispersion out to 30 degrees off axis

Micca MB42x MK III 1m Vertical axis measurements

The Micca's appear pretty typical in their vertical axis measurement with a big nasty null that starts at the crossover point.

Micca MB42x MK III vs Primus p153

Micca MB42x MK III vs Primus p153 level matched @ 100hz

This isn't a perfect apples to apples comparison. I thought I had remeasured my p143's when I took the measurements of the Micca's (and a bunch of others), but I seemed to have only saved the measurements to the larger Infinity Primus p153. 

No changes were made to the source or amp, speakers were switched and mic highlight was adjusted to the tweeter.

The p153 plays louder (though not any lower as seen in the level matched graph) in the mid-bass and lower mid-range area which help flatten our the frequency response, doesn't have any hump at 1k, but it does have a bit of elevation past 8k which might makes them a bit bright for some.

So again not an apples to apples comparison, but the p143 shares enough of the same qualities with the rest of the Primus line that some insight can still be gained.

I'm glad I finally got to hear the hype on these little speakers. They sound nice for the price, play pretty deep, look good enough, and are well built. 

Anyone who already has them should feel confident in their choice. If digital EQ is your thing, then they take to that very well and you can get some very impressive results.  

I still like other speakers better, but they are also just a bit more expensive.

I am a little concerned about the price creeping higher and higher though. They are bordering on $100 right now, and at that's getting close to Pioneer and Infinity territory, and depending on your audio preferences I think either of those are a step up form the Micca's.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monoprice Premium 5.25 Bookshelf 10532 Speaker Review

Monoprice Premium 5.25 Bookshelf 10532 Speaker Review

Monoprice has always been known for exceptional values on tons of audio products. It's many enthusiasts go to retailer for all things wire, cable, cord and connection related. Monoprice has also had some surprise winners in their small home theater in a box systems (9774), that even got them in a little bit of hot water for being a little too similar to the Energy Take Classic system.

One of my first attempts at a speaker review compared the Dayton B652 and the Monoprice 8250. In that situation the Dayton was the ultra budget victor. But now Monoprice has come out with the 10532 bookshelf speaker (and a matching 4 inch sibling) which retails for about $80. That looks to try and compete with the likes of Pioneer, Infinity and Micca. 

It's a good enough looking black box. Seems to be very well built for the price. Heavier than the Pioneer BS22, pushing Infinity p153 weight. Drivers look fine. But the edges on the left and right side concern me. It seems ripe for diffraction issues. Port and terminal cup looks like it was taken right from the BS22

Grills look sonically terrible. With a lattice work that covers the whole tweeter. There is a measurable differences without them on. I wouldn't used them. But the cross over looks ok and are more complex than many others at this price point. See the full album for details.

Here are the normal close mic driver measurements and outdoor @ 1m gated measurements. 

Port is probably tuned to the 60hz range. 

I was initially pretty excited to see how fast the woofer drops off past the cross over point. However there remains a pretty large spike from what I would attribute to cone break up at 4khz. This peak is audible and see in full range measurements. 

The tweeter response is the oddball here, it reaches it's output peak at 5khz and then falls off pretty early. This is "dark" sounding speaker for sure. Not particularly airy or detailed sounding. 

From about 100hz - 3.5khz the speaker plays pretty flat and neutral. But that cone break up spike remains noticeable to the ears. If it would be EQ'd out or if a xover change could notch it out  then I think the mid range driver would be pretty ok.

However the early roll off of the tweeter darkens and dulls the sound. Not much in the way of "sparkle" going to be happening here. The terrible grill really accentuates this killing everything after 8khz.

Gated 1m outdoor On/Off Axis measurements

Nothing particularity exciting of the off axis responses. Seems to roll off pretty predictably despite the lips on either side wall. Getting below the woofer and tweeter causes a large null at the at the cross over point.

Matched in REW @ 600hz where the measurements begin to be effected by ground reflections.  

I really wanted to like these, they look good enough, they are built as well as speakers 2-3x as much. 

But for me, that tweeter that rolls of so early makes these a very dull and uninspiring speaker. The easiest way to describe these, would be as, this is what people think the Dayton B652 sounds like until they hear the Pioneers or Infinity’s. Even though they are priced to compete with the Micca's, they don't beat them by a long shot. If you are stuck with $80ish dollars to spends I would look to the Infinity p143 (when on sale), Micca MB42x, and Insignia NS-SP213 (if you are also planning to use  a subwoofer) 

While they are not offensive, though notching out the cone break up would go a long way. And while they are worlds ahead of the Monoprice 8250 speakers (which make Dayton B652's sound good), they don't keep up with the likes of the Infinity's, Pioneers or even the IMO underappreciated Insignia bookshelf found at Best Buy.  

While I'm not much of a speaker builder or modder myself. If you had expendable cash, I think these might make for good platform to build on top of.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pure Acoustics Supernova S Bookshelf Speaker Review

Pure Acoustics Supernova S Bookshelf Speaker Review

Sometimes it's almost a race to review the next cheap, probably terrible but possible hidden gem of a speaker. I had never heard of Pure Acoustics before starting this hobby, but over the last year or so I noticed them on Parts Express ( and Amazon ( sporting pretty reasonable prices and generally positive user reviews. The Parts Express reviews where especially interesting to me since it's a retailer all about DIY speaker building.

In trying to do some research on the brand I couldn't find much. Some people likened them to an "American Fluance" ( Other's thought they would be terrible. I've even read posts stating the Roy Allison, founder of Acoustic Research, had a hand in the design of the Supernova line. (

So when I decided to pull the trigger on a pair, I was crossing my fingers that I found another reasonably priced gem. Unfortunately, I don't think I’ve found that. Let's go into more detail below.

Full Disassembly Album
Complete Measurement Graphs and Comparison Album

The speakers themselves are good looking enough. Not much to see, a black, wood grained printed vinyl box. There is some slight curvature to the side walls, but it is cosmetic only, the internal dimensions are rectangular with flat sides. Taking the rather massive MDF grills off reveals something a little nicer looking. A gloss black front, contrasted by a good sized tweeter with large wave guide. Woofers are an orange-ish copper in color. While its more dressed up than a Pioneer BS22, I thought it looks like a cheap speaker trying too hard to look like something it's not.

To the rear is a pretty standard 5 way biding posts, rear port and wall hanging mount.

I found the screw tops to the binding posts need to be unscrewed nearly all the way to reveal the holes if you are using bare wire. That's a bit annoying. Since they are rear ported, wall hanging mount probably isn't the best idea of getting the best SQ possible is your goal.

There seems to be some confusion of what the actual ohm rating on these speakers are. There is conflicting information if they are 8ohm or 4ohm. I went to buy DMM from Harbor Freight, and like most Harbor Freight stuff it didn't work. But from my measurements and direct comparisons with the Pioneer BS22 and Infinity Primus p153, the Supernova S didn't measure as though it was drawing more power from the amp. So I'm going to guess, that these are 8ohm nominal.

There are many similarities in general frequency response below 1khz. I imagine due to floor reflections. However you can see that the Pure Acoustics has both the lowest volume output in the in the lower octaves AND the nearly reaches the output of the Infinity Primus p153 in the upper octaves. It makes for a very lopsided response graph.

In my time listening to them, I immediately noticed midrange output that was giving every voice a tunnel like quality to it. There is also some major elevated tweeter output (+10db from ~7khz to ~15khz at close mic measurements, ~+6db at 1m measurements) causing some pretty extreme sibilance with just about any hard S sound. This has been the first time it was some obvious to me. Snares/high hats are all just in your face and distracting. I don't think the midrange in playing full range, but it had obvious audible output till about 9khz. Maybe as an attempt to help combat the huge peak in tweeter output. Regardless, it’s doesn’t seem to be helping. And if it actually is, then there are some other design choices that should have been rectified before extending the output that far was the chosen solution.

The very basic cross over. Who knows what it's actually doing

Let's look at the individual driver and 1m measurements. 

Individual drivers close mic measurements. 

Individual drivers close mic measurements + 1m outdoor measurement

Indoor vs Outdoor 1m measurements 

In addition to the elevated and harsh tweeter, there is a major lack of bass. Now, I do my listening with the speakers pretty far away from any rear walls, so that may contribute to that slightly. But speakers like the Pioneer BS22 or TEAC LS-H265 have no problem making plenty of bass in the same room. I have reviewed and enjoyed speakers that were weak in the bass department (Insignia NS-SP213), but did a lot of other things well enough instead.

The combination of the way too loud tweeter and the extreme lack of bass make for a combo that is pretty hard to listen to.

In some of the less measurable areas, I found the sound stage to be pretty narrow smeary mess. The audio is very contained to the edges of the speaker cabinet. There isn't anything going on that helps envelope you in sound or make the audio feel bigger than the speaker locations.

Kissing Cousins?

In a possible random coincidence, /u/strategicdeceiver posted his review of the Fluance sx6. I immediately noticed some strong similarities between his measurements of the Fluance and my measurements of the Pure Acoustics. While I have not heard the Fluance, if the similarities in these measurements carried over into other the rest of the audio experience, then the Fluance would also be severely lacking speakers.


I don't think that it will take Force powers to tell you to "Move along, move along". I can understand the positive praise from Amazon, as most reviewers are not very technical or have experience with many other speakers. Even known crap tends to have high marks there. But I am very surprised that the Parts-Express reviews would also be so high.

If you are looking to speakers in the $120 range there is no reason to put these on your short list. Skip right past these and look to the Pioneer BS22 or the Infinity Primus p153 depending on your audio preferences.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Home Theater Direct HTD Level 2 Bookshelf Speaker Review

Home Theater Direct HTD Level 2 Bookshelf Speaker Review

I’ve wanted to review a Home Theater Direct product for a while now and when a deal on them came up I couldn't resist picking up a pair of HTD Level 2's. As one of the more popular direct internet speaker retailers, the whole line has been well received. Their Level 3 speakers with their ribbon tweeters being considered some of the best speakers in their price point.

So how does the comparatively Plain Jane HDT Level 2 stack up against some of the more mass market speakers? I compared the HTD's with both the Pioneer BS22's and the Definitive Technology SM45s. Both are easily available speakers just above and just below the price point of the HDT Level 2.

Before we look at the graphs and talk about how they sound, let’s take the HTD Level 2 apart and see what's it's made of.

Side by side with the Pioneer BS22  
It's a bit shorter than the BS22 and significantly heavier. Build quality is no joke on the HTD Level 2

The rear and terminals 

Tweeter Removed 
Not all that interesting. Uses a small neodymium magnet. 

Mid range removed 
Not very interesting, the driver is listed as 6 ohms. I couldn't find anything regarding the part number

Good amount of stuffing for a budget speaker 

What is this? That’s part of the port. These are slot/transmission line ported.

The crossover 
Look at all those resistors. What does it all mean!

Internal bracing
Starting to make sense as to why this is so heavy.

As you can see, construction is top notch. I don't know anything about xover building, but it is big, and bigger is better right? Maybe someone can tell us more about it.

Close Mic of Individual Drivers 1/12 Smoothing

The HTD level 2 does not appear to be ported all that low. About 80 hz by the close mic measurements. There is also some pretty large spikes centered at ~400hz and ~850hz. I believe that these will be seen later in the 1m measurements.

The grill isn't too bad. It tames the output a little bit; but at 1m or greater distances it doesn't have much effect. They are pretty transparent overall.

Drivers @1m 1/12 smoothing 

In this instance of measurements there is a deep but narrow null at 400hz. I experienced the perfect inverse of that in a previous measurement. I'm going to conclude that both the null and the spike are somehow due to the spike in the port response. 

The bumps at ~850hz and 1.2khz match pretty well with the close mic measurements of the mid range.

The difference between tweeter response with and with the grills becomes pretty negligible

Full speaker @ 1m with port overlaid 1/12 Smoothing 

Trying to show if there is any relation to the point noise and some of the peaks and dips in the 1m graphs.

The 400hz peak coming out of the port does line up with both the peak and dip seen at 1m and the peak at ~850hz. And possibly even the peak from ~1.2-1.8khz

As seen later, when smoothed to 1/6 db per octave these are a +/- 3db speaker. Though it's a wavy one.

Off axis Responses 

Horizontal off axis response 

Horizontal off axis responses, overall it stays pretty consistent until you break past 20 degrees off axis.

Vertical off axis response 

Vertical off axis responses. Getting even a little bit above the tweeter makes things ugly right at the xover point. Being below the tweeter doesn't have nearly the negative effect.

Comparison With Competitors 

HTD Level 2 Bookshelf speaker: Comparison 1/3 octave smoothing 
Here we are comparing the HTD Level 2 with a number of other common popular bookshelf speakers.

Level matched @ 100hz

HTD Level 2 = BLUE
Def Tech StudioMonitor 45 = RED
Pioneer BS22 = GREEN
Infinity Primus p153 = PURPLE

HTD Level 2 vs Pioneer BS22 

HTD Level 2 vs Def Tech SM45

HTD Level 2 vs Infinity p153 

TL;DR and How Do They Sound?

The HTD Level 2's are a great looking basic black speaker. Build quality is exceptional, these are literal tanks that make music and if matte black or any other wood grain finishes are something you like then they will look great in your room. As far as performance is concerned, they are a +/- 3db speaker (at 6db per octave smoothing at least) but it's a pretty inconsistent 3db's.

The HTD Level 2 is not a bad speaker (I'm looking at you Pinnacle BD 500), there are no overtly distracting issues, and overall they are enjoyable enough.

But they don't stand out in the crowed, I was not wowed by either objective measured accuracy or their subjective fun.
At times they sounded very similar to the Pioneers, so if you have Pioneers already I don't think the HTD level 2's much of an upgrade. If you are looking between the two, the Level 2's can be a touch more exciting if there is a lot of activity in the areas of the frequency response that are boosted a bit, (700hz-1.5khz or anything after 8khz) but it never seemed to be a consist difference.

I found the Definitive Technology SM45's to be both a slight more accurate speaker for most of the spectrum, though the last octave might not be for everyone as it is elevated though never harsh. But more importantly the SM45 were a far more fun speaker, throwing a huge bright sound stage that just grips you into the music.

Overall I’m not sure how the HTD Level 2 fits into anyone’s go to recommendation of a good budget/entry level speaker. While a good speaker itself, the Pioneers can be had for much less, and are a much smoother and accurate speaker, though mellow in the treble area. The Definitive Technologies can be found for just slightly more money and equal the HTD’s in construction and IMO best them in performance in every way. And while not directly talked about here, the Infinity Primus line remains a great and my personal favorite budget option as well.