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 Woot.com 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.
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.
UPDATE PART 2:
I have another pair on the way and will be updating this review in the near future.