Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sound Appeal SA-vf6.5s: The review, break down and comparison. All aboard the hype train!

Sound Appeal SA-vf6.5s Review

I stumbled upon these while searching Amazon for new cheap bookshelf speakers to review. From their outward appearance and the lofty claims made by AV-Express, I thought that Sound Appeal SA-vf6.5s  coming in at $69.99 were the perfect budget speaker review candidate.I was hoping to be the first to jump on these, but I was beat to the punch by a few other hobbyist reviewers. So far the opinion seems to be split down the middle.

First Impressions: Build

All the pictures on the marketing materials show these speakers sans grills, as such they are as handsome as any other black vinyl fake wood finished speaker box. With the grills they become even more nondescript. The real problem with the grills is getting them off and just how much the plastic frame covers the tweeter. By far these are the most permanent feeling removable grills I have encountered, you really feel like your pushing the structural limits of the plastic while trying to pry them off. And those grills should come off because the black plastic covers so much of the tweeter and that is causes some nastiness in the measurements as you will see below.

1 meter driver measurements. 

The cabinet of the SA-vf6.5s is a tad larger and better looking than its most obvious competition, the Dayton B652. (I'll be using both the Dayton B652 and the Pioneer BS22 for some comparisons) But not built any better; and as such rings pretty hallow sounding. I'm sure some internal bracing would do some good. Internal stuffing is abysmal with the thinnest egg create foam you can imagine, more and better stuffing would also probably help.

Drivers looks nice enough for the price point. 6.5 inch mid and the claimed 1 inch dome tweeter looks to be built as well as anything else in the budget. There has been some questioning about the claimed size of the tweeter and if AV-Express is accurately representing it. I pulled out my measuring tape and got 1 inch from edge to edge of the tweeter driver. The diameter of the dome however is closer to 7/8 or 3/4 inch. Is this a case of exaggeration or using the wrong measurement I don't know. The tweeter uses a good size ferrite magnet.

The SA 6.5 claims to have a 12db per octave crossover. And it does, but only on the tweeter. The woofer plays full range. The mid does a pretty good job playing out to about 3.5khz before it quickly drops of. Close mic measurements show some extra jaggedness but it seems to work itself out as you get a little farther away. I'm guessing the tweeter is crossed over pretty high, near 6khz would be my guess. Perhaps someone with cross over design expertise has a better understanding and can chime in.

The port on the SA 6.5 narrow oval port, while it does increase the bass extension in close mic measurements. It looks to be turned pretty high, and at distance, doesn't seem to add much to the speakers performance. If they were crossed over at 80hz with a sub, I don't think this would be an issue. Bass depth ends up being just hair better than the Daytons.

Overall they are build as good as most other speakers at the price point.

 How Does it all Sound? 

If we can get past some of the lofty claims, and compare them with speakers at the same price point. Then they do pretty damn good.

I don't use any of these speaker in near field situations, but at 6 feet away I liked them a lot. Imagining was nice and wide. Going through my common listing tracks all came back with enjoying the music and not being distracted by distortion, harshness or tunnel sounding vocals. These ain’t no Daytons for sure. Voices are natural and smooth, but bass is a tad boomy and blah with the elevated mid bass region.

There is a 5db dip in the response from 5.5khx to 8khz and centered about 6.5khz. At first I thought that this was due to just by the roll off of the mid and the crossover frequency of the tweeter, but upon some further testing of the other speaker (and seeing that the tweeter responses are different). 

 I think it is due to a comb filtering or another form of cancellation. Will that be audible? I'm not sure. It's a pretty narrow region and the Pionner BS22's suffer a similar dip, though due to the grill and not any sort of cancellation.

Off axis response seems pretty good on the horizontal plane. I had to get the speaker to 45 degrees off before the response changed significantly. So I don't think much toe in will be required for these. As you get father off axis, you can see what I think is the cone break seen in the driver measurements at 6khz becomes more audible.

Tonally, I had a hard time telling them apart from the Pioneers during some A/B comparisons. Before anyone loses their mind, I am not saying that they are not better than the Pioneers. But at 1/2 the cost they do a good job competing with them. 

With products more in line with their price, (Dayton B652, Polk R150/T15/M10, JBL Loft, Insignia NS-SP213, Micca MB42x, Sony B1000), they become a good option to look at. They kill the Dayton, Polks, and JBLs; if any of those were in your short list of speakers, the SA-vf6.5 best them with ease. I wish I had the Insignia's again to compare directly. The Insignia's have a much better tweeter and crossover but are lacking on the bass response. If I was using a sub, I would take the Insignia's in a heart beat. I don't have the Micca MB42x, but I do have a pair of the MB42x-C. I found the Micca MTM's to be brighter, and without the lower mid range and midbass to filled out. Making me prefer the SA-vf6.5s with a lot of music. 

Below are new measurements of some of the potential competitors I had on hand.

As you can see, the Pioneers and Sound Appeal's measure pretty similar 200 hz to nearly 7khz


If you're looking to spend $69.99 or less on speakers, then these should absolutely be on the list to investigate along with the Micca MB42s and Insignia NS-SP213. Cheap speakers are getting better and better, but don't expect these to be giant killers. While I found them to be very similar in sound to the Pioneers, the Pioneer are better in every way. The Pioneers are also 2x the price. There maybe some QC issues here, in my experience both speakers measured a bit more differently than I would hope past 5khz. Though how audible it will be is anyone’s guess. And if the promotional materials could tone down trying to resurrect Billy Mays, I think we would have a potential budget winner.

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