My apologies for posting this so late. The weekend has been busy.
Unfortunately as I write this now, my memory on what I heard is fading a bit so hopefully the notes I took on Friday are enough to be useful and descriptive in detail.
There are no ‘winners’ in our audition just to be clear.
I’m only reporting what I perceived as sound differences in character between these sets of speakers. I will however state what my preferences were after everything was done.
Just to note, for those who want to know, we heard our test songs through a Sony cdp and a Marantz receiver. The next 2 items were auditioned with another Sony cdp but with a Denon 3803 receiver. The Monitor Audio speakers were heard with Musical Fidelity tube amps and tube CDp as well as through NAD SS C740 receiver and NAD CDp. The Tannoys were auditioned with a Denon 3803 and Toshiba dvdp as well as an unknown 200W SS amp of reputable name…just cannot recall. Finally, once again I should note, these auditions were done in 3 separate locations but as per the previous post, all with the same songs, ppl, and relative volume levels, etc. We tried to estimate some of the general highlighted bass effects that were occurring in one listening location that had a particularly small listening room with a lot of wood walls and floors.
Energy Connoisseurs (C7s or C9s)
One word summary: “disappointed”
Relatively unimpressed by the sound as a whole. It wasn’t particularly lively, the bass wasn’t overdone but it wasn’t really controlled either. The upper end was intermittently harsh (particular notes just did not sound that good) almost as if the tweeters were straining to keep up. If I were buying a stereo system for the first time and wanted something that I knew might get beat up (e.g. those college dorms/roommates) these would be a decent speaker to use as a starting point and certainly have more quality than some other items we looked at in the store (**ahem ahemboseahemahem**).
I think the Connoisseurs are priced about as high as I would buy them however, and at this price point ($1400 Cdn for the C9s, $990 for the C7s) I think there are better options. If the Connoisseurs were on sale, the price for performance would be way more reasonable. I was expecting to see a more substantial build quality from them though. The boxes were quite narrow and much shorter and less weighty than I expected with an unimpressive finish. They had magnets that would attach the grilles to the front of the speaker but after taking them off, I noticed the grilles were made of some kind of plastic grid behind the cloth. The grid was so wide that the spaces between the grid holes barely fit my pinky finger. I cannot believe that would not do something to the sound. I really hope that Energy designed the grilles like that, otherwise if you buy these speakers, I suggest you leave the grilles off.
Using my Axioms as a reference, the Connoisseurs do not hold the proverbial candle to them.
Energy Veritas 2.3
One word summary: “overpriced”.
Yes, they did sound good, well balanced, and rich in the midrange but not mushy kind of rich, just vibrant. High end was ok but certainly not superbly detailed (using Axiom M60s as a reference) but also not bright. It was really clean for lack of a better word. They had more bass than the Axioms and the Connoisseurs, but well controlled, with a MUCH better/heavier build quality. Their finish was quite a striking upgrade from the Connoisseur line. We did not take a lot of time with these speakers so I cannot comment too much more on sound.
Still, I cannot figure out why these speakers are so expensive. The piano gloss finish might count for something but I could not stop laughing at the $4k+ price figure. They must be out of their minds.
One word summary: “excellent”
Anyone looking for a decent speaker to give Axiom, Paradigm, Energy and others a run for the money should be listening to this speaker. The high end was smooth and well done. It was not edgy or bright but reasonably to very nicely detailed. The mids were not as detailed as Axiom but there was nothing muddy or fudgy about the sound. It wasn’t rich but not flat. It was like taking a M60s and placing it behind a very lightly veiled screen that just toned down a bit of the highs and midrange but kept the rest. The M35s had a bit more bass, quite comparable to the Veritas in volume but not as controlled as the Veritas and certainly not as tight as Axioms. This speaker was just generally pleasant to hear and its overall sound quality was far superior to the Connoisseur C9s, which retailed for a slightly higher price. Mission has made a superb sounding, nicely finished and quite robust speaker (50lbs solid) for a price of $1300 Cdn! For those looking for that first stereo system, for those who think Axioms are too bright (regardless of model), I highly recommend they listen to these M35s. They would be getting another really good deal in regards to quality for price paid.
Monitor Audio S6s and S8s
One word summary: “astounding”
I could say a whole lot about the Monitor Audio Silver S8s but there is a real easy way that comes to mind. If Axiom had an ‘elite’ line of speaker models, these Monitors are what I would have expected them to be.
The high end is superbly detailed but not harsh, somewhat less bright than the Axioms. I found the bass to be more robust but just as tight as the M60s. Otherwise the two speaker brands seemed to share a very similar character sound. If there was any richness in the midrange, it did not come across as warm but rather stunning and pure.
However, the Monitor Audio speakers have a tradeoff compared to the Axioms. They are beautifully finished in real wood veneers and therefore cost double the amount that the M60s do. Box builds and weights are nearly equivalent but the edges on the Monitor Audio speakers are nicely rounded and seamless. The Axioms are sharper which as some may have noticed could potentially cause vinyl peeling at the edge depending on the circumstances. This is not anything of major concern but the amazing Monitor wood veneer certainly in part justifies the cost difference between the 2 brands. I would really have loved to A/B these 2 speakers side by side.
As for the difference in the S6 and the S8, there wasn’t alot. The S6 was akin to the M60 and the M80 in that it just sounded like a smaller version of the S8 whereas the S8 had a touch more bass and could play louder, but that’s about it.
Incidentally, running these speakers through the tubed Musical Fidelity definitely enhances some kind of warm character. I thought they took on a bit more of a flat sound once hooked up to the NAD SS receiver. The change was pretty subtle but I would certainly like to hear it again and preferably in an A/B method. I might be better able to describe the difference in such a setting.
Tannoy Saturn 8s/6s
One word summary: “stereotypical British sound”
Ok, so that really isn’t one word but I figured ‘stereotypical’ on its own would not have been enough. I really like these Saturn speakers. They have that stereotypical British sound of rolled off highs (no brightness but lovely detail), really smooth midrange and a slight oomph in the bass department that is rather well controlled but far less tight than the Monitor, Axiom or Veritas. In owning a much larger version, the Definition 700s, I see what Tannoy has tried to do in a less expensive model. They literally use the same drivers but smaller, and in a completely different tower (less weight, height, width, less bracing, different interior material, vinyl wrap-no wood). The Tannoy patented ‘dual concentric’ driver design has a single source point for both the tweeter and the midrange which creates a truly unique soundstage. The off axis response measurement must be incredible because regardless of the direction you move, up, down, left or right, the sound remains very much the same to a fairly wide angle. I can honestly say the Saturn is a great speaker for music for those who prefer a bit more bass than an Axiom speaker but are not interested in adding a subwoofer. The Saturn line can really carry itself in this regard but without being at all boomy. The one downfall that I think goes against this speaker is the lightweight box. I really believe the larger 8” drivers on the S8s could use more weight to keep the speaker solid on its feet and coupled to the ground. This is where a description of the larger D700s comes in. They are very heavy, much better braced internally, have a similar sound character but present a huge soundstage in comparison (not unexpected from a much larger speaker size) but with the same amount of bass, while truly filling a room with volumes of sounds (not just the loud dB kind). There is something to be said about a solid cabinet and resonance with anything else around it. The Saturn line seems to try and use the same principles as used in the Definitions but the corner cutting to the small cabinet and hence cost cutting really made the sound a lot ‘weaker’ in comparison. However, the D700s also retail at $6500Cdn per pair!!. For a far lesser price (S8s being about $2000Cdn per pair) they are a great speaker to pair against any of the other previous brands/models mentioned. Their distinctive sound will certainly appeal to many. At the price of $2000, they should have some wood veneer (the D700s are all wood veneer with real wood corner trims) but Tannoy skipped on this and opted for a vinyl wrap instead. I’m hoping that decision was based on placing ‘higher end model’ drivers in the speaker and hence Tannoy decided to offset the cost to keep its price reasonable. If not, that means you are paying at this level for the Tannoy name which is always an annoying thing.
The difference between the Saturn 8s and 6s is virtually the same as for the Monitor Audio equivalents. The 8s could play louder, had a touch more bass extension, and that was about it.
So after all was said and done, I do have a favorite. Coincidentally it may appear to be the most expensive speaker in this review, but really it is not (I already own the most expensive speaker listed in this review).
My favorite was the Monitor Audio S8 and S6. For a larger room or a bigger budget, the S8 was my choice but with the S6 you would not lose much at all. It’s great detail, sound and finish would be perfect for both music and HT in my opinion but I really think these speakers are wasted on just HT. They can really sing.
For music only, and a couple of dollars less, I would probably choose the Tannoy Saturn line for those who do not like brightness of Monitors or Axioms and prefer a bit more bass. It is certainly detailed enough for HT applications and Tannoy has plugged them as a HT product, but I prefer laser sharp clarity for HT and there are other speakers that do this alot more. The Saturn is a too rolled off for that exclusively but with those ‘hotly’ recorded CDs, this speaker is easier on the ears and yet still pleasantly revealing. This thought is a bit biased though since I do own the much larger Definition 700s and I very much enjoy this character British sound for our music only stereo system. The smoothness and warmth is great. (You can argue inaccurate until you are blue in the face but accuracy is not always what fine audio is about; it IS about a person’s perception of what sounds ‘best’ and real to them).
For overall most inexpensive price, superb build quality (compared to a lot of other things we came across) with very reasonable aesthetics (and of course astounding # of finish choices), ….you guessed it, the Axiom M60 takes the big trophy.
My personal preference is again for a sharp level of clarity and detail especially for HT. This is something that both the Monitor and Axiom present but Axiom does it cheaper, although for more cash I think Monitor does it way nicer. The Axiom M60 speaker is truly a solidly built, loudspeaker that is very physically and sound quality comparable to all the speaker sets nearly twice its price. It is a king compared at least 10 models we perused in the stores at the same price point (+/-$200). After this weekend I have a whole new level of joy in knowing we bought Axioms for our first very full size system nearly 2 years ago. Once you see the flimsy, harsh sounding junk out there for $1000+, your Axioms look like royalty.
However, I really have to stress here that the equally inexpensive Mission M35s are a real surprise. Once again I reiterate, for anyone who dislikes the Axiom brightness but does not want a generic Paradigm unit or one of the fabled Rockets, they should be looking at this more subtly laid back, soft dome tweeter and paper-based woofer loudspeaker. If I had preferred a more laid back sound, then chances are the Missions would have taken this trophy home instead of the Axioms. I can only wonder just how laid back these infamous Rockets might actually be in comparison.
Both the Energy speakers get the doghouse from me. The Connoisseurs are just too cheap, and it shows, while on the other end of the spectrum, the Veritas are ridiculously overpriced. If the Veritas 2.3s were under$3000 Cdn instead of the $4000 retail posted, I would not have laughed so hard and perhaps just raised a single eyebrow halfway.
One short afterthought about a lot of the auditions, power and perception of loudness became a real issue when auditioning at home. Although we could get the highly efficient Axiom M60s (93db w m) to a volume level beyond anything a sane person would listen to, the Tannoy Saturn 6s for example (90 dB w m) could not reach the same volume point before clipping set in while using a Denon 3802 receiver. Of course this should be expected since that is how/why the whole efficiency measurement works.
This equated to about 4-5 on the Denon volume scale for the Saturns and about 6-8 on the Denon volume scale for the Axioms. (The Denon volume scale maxes at 17 and has a minimum at -70.)
For those interested in measured volume loudness (a standardized reference in dB), the Axiom has a huge edge over many of the previously listed speakers (except for the Tannoy Definitions) based solely on their high efficiency and hence higher SPLs at comparable power inputs. For those curious to know, the distortion levels and clipping began around the 102dB range for the less efficient Saturns while the distortion began around 105dB for the Axiom M60.
ALL LOUDSPEAKERS WERE TREATED HUMANELY AND NO UNITS WERE HARMED OR DAMAGED IN ANY WAY DURING THESE ‘EXPERIMENTS’.
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME…(like we did).
"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."