Subjective opinions on the speakers built in WOOD magazine #248 (September 2017)

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The speakers use Dayton Audio components sourced from partsexpress.com.

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Review by Craig Ruegsegger, Deputy Editor. Eclectic music tastes, ranging from country to jazz to the classics (Beatles, Led Zep, AC/DC, etc.). Spent 16 years in radio listening to too much Adult Contemporary music.

My home system has a Yamaha RX-V450 receiver powering B&W (Bowers & Wilkins) DM601 speakers and a Klipsch 10" subwoofer that I purchased new in 2006. The magazine speakers benefitted greatly from the subwoofer, as will any speaker of this size. The magazine speakers had no trouble handling the same amont of power as the B&Ws without distortion. Overall, I found the Dayton drivers a bit over-bright, even harsh on upper-range vocals (Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Train", Geddy Lee of Rush on "Tom Sawyer"). (By the way, trust no speaker review that doesn't use "Tom Sawyer" as part of the test.) Neil Peart's famous "round-the-kit" drum fill in that song sounded harsh at high volume on the Daytons. Male vocals (Steely Dan's "Do It Again") sounded better than female vocals, but were still a bit over-bright. The magazine speakers lack the lower mids of the B&Ws, but the B&Ws lack the crisp highs of the Daytons. Overall, I find the B&Ws truer.

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Review by Keith Brown, owner of Crystal Sound Recording Studios in Des Moines, Iowa and a 1998 inductee into the Iowa Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. As a musician, Keith has played on hundreds of recordings for local and national artists including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, HAWKS, Locust, and Jesse Brady.  As a producer, Keith has developed and delivered recording artists to record companies such as MCA, Columbia, and Capitol Records. Crystal Sound's original music can be heard in hundreds of local, regional, and national commercials.

Any professional listening environment would benefit from a set of these speakers. Driver integration is a huge hurdle in any design and construction. The task is to find the sweet spot where the driver combination can project perfectly together. The ear does not process sound in a linear fashion. Sensitivity is most notable in the middle of the hearing range. The crossover point for these speakers is fixed at a beautiful point where clarity in the midrange is superb. Separation is total, and distinct.

The cabinet is beautifully designed which will help any "Hi-Fi-ist" secure the permission of the spouse who usually doesn't want to see speakers, and allow placement at optimum listening distance.

Our power source was a dependable Hafler Trans-Nova 9300 Series running to a Soundcraft (Analog) 6000 console with flat EQ. Listening referenced from Sara Bareilles, Linda Rondstadt, The Beatles, and Joe Bonamassa. Soft to loud. Solid! My only concern is power tools in the hands of musicians and recording engineers as they construct their own pair.

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Review by Bill Krier.  A child of the 60s and 70s, Bill prefers classic rock n roll, and considers Led Zeppelin the greatest band ever. He prefers listening to vinyl on his vintage Marantz turntable, or live-concert rock videos on his Sony home theater.

I compared the magazine speakers to my Paradigm Mini Monitors v.6 that I purchased for about $240 in 2012.

Allow me to couch my statement by saying that I am no audiophile, not even close. But like anyone, I know what I think sounds good. Also, I don't have switching equipment, so I wasn't able to switch from one set of speakers in an instant like you would do in an audio store (as I did when I bought the Paradigms). So for my test I had to switch out the wire connections on the back of the speakers each time I compared them (I went back and forth between the two sets of speakers three times, each with a different song from the Eagles Live Tour disc in my Blu-ray device.) The process of switching the wires took a couple of minutes each time. When switching the wires I kept the volume at the same place, for a direct comparison to what I just listened to. While I was listening to a song I did vary the volume. I set my 5-channel Sony receiver on its "music" setting, which is the best way to listen to stereo sound -- all the sound sent to the left and right speakers, nothing to the other surround speakers.

So here's what I noticed. I thought the project speakers sounded good. But what I consistently noticed is that the project speakers "hurt" my ears more at higher volumes because they sounded a little shrill. With the Paradigms I could turn the volume higher and higher but the sound stayed pleasant, though very loud. As I turned up the volume on the project speakers, the shrill sound got worse, and so did my ear pain. It was like the Paradigms converted more of the volume into pleasant bass and mid-tones, but the project speakers converted more of the volume into high-end shrill sound. I didn't notice either speaker set start to distort, but I didn't push either one to the point of alarming the neighbors.

In summary, the project speakers are respectable, but I'll stick with my Paradigms.

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Review by Matt Coulter –I've been an audiophile since the 1980's.  Before the age of the compact disc I collected about two dozen "half-speed master recordings" on vinyl LP's and still listen to them.  Artists include The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Little River Band, The Alan Parsons Project, and of course Pink Floyd.  I even worked in a retail stereo shop in the early 80's while going to college.

Associated equipment: Rotel RC-990BX pre-amplifier, Rotel RB-98 BX power amp (120 watts per channel), BBE Sonic Maximizer Model 1002, Sony S707ES Tuner, Yamaha CDC-745 CD Changer, Acoustic Research AR-2ax speakers.

The bookshelf speakers provide a very satisfying listening experience. They throw a decent, convincing sound stage, not as wide and deep as my Acoustic Research speakers though. Bass heft belies their small size. Voices sound natural. Highs and midrange are detailed and smooth. I had no listener fatigue with these beautiful little gems.

I listen to a lot of classical music from the local NPR FM station. Certainly these speakers cannot reach the bottom octaves than my AR-2ax speakers do with their 10-inch woofers. However, I find the high and midrange reproduction from these bookshelf speakers are a bit more detailed than my 30-plus-year-old AR's. "Performance Today" sounds truly outstanding.

The music of former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler is my other musical passion. It is here where these little guys really show their weakness in the lower octaves. While still very listenable, they simply can't produce the kind of low bass volume to compete with a larger speaker. Coupled with a high quality subwoofer, these speakers would be the basis for a very good stereo music system. Five of these with a subwoofer would make a great home-theater system.

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Review by Rob Cook – I listen to Blues, Jazz, Rock, pretty much anything but Country. I've been into music for a while, I really wanted to dive into full Audiophile, but money and life prevented that so I just dabble and dream from the sidelines. My collection is exclusively digital but I try to reproduce it as cleanly as I can afford.

I compared these speakers to a pair of Paradigm Titans in my kitchen where we spend a good amount of time, and to a pair of Paradigm MiniMonitors in the living room. I chose three songs: Charles Mingus' Better Git It In Your Soul from Ah Um, Steely Dan's Deacon Blues from Aja, and The Company Band's Eldorado from Pros & Cons. The kitchen speakers were driven by a Lepai LP7498E and the living room by a Yamaha RX-V371 Receiver.

In back-to-back comparisons, I found the speakers lack midrange, sounding almost like you were in a tunnel. The sound stage felt narrow like the highs were too in-your-face. The bass however was punchy and powerful. I moved them to my living room and paired them with my subwoofer. Offloading the very low end really helps, allowing them to fill in the missing mids that weren't there without the sub. A set of 5 of these (with sub) would make for a nice home theater.

The build however is amazing. These are tanks! I didn't weigh them but they easily outweigh the Paradigms. Overall, taken in isolation, they sound good but when compared to the Paradigm speakers they lack something that you know isn't there and can be difficult to put into words.

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Review by Colby Campbell - I grew up with an audiophile of a father, which may have - nay, certainly - had an impact on me earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, a persistent habit of freelance DJing, and some picky ears. I look for speakers that are as versatile as my listening habits, and over the years I have heard a lot of bad speakers systems and some good ones. My playlists range from classic rock to funk to hip hop and classical. Sometimes I'll crank the volume, and sometimes I'm courteous to my neighbors, so I need a system that is present across the range of power.

9/10: Beautiful speakers with quality sound

Before I even hooked the speakers in, I was excited by the weight and beauty of the box. The quality of the wood can seriously affect the resonance, and these don't feel cheap. The exposed cones are sleek and look durable.

The sound produced by these two mid-size speakers is impressive. The good balance of mids and highs provides a crisp, clean, present sound, especially when compared with my older Infinity bookshelf speakers of the same size, seen below.

CampbellSpeaker

This easy-to-hear balance allowed me a good listening experience without having to turn up the volume. But if you really want to rock, they play as loud as I could ever want in a basement or garage setting (and maybe a little louder - enough to prevent conversation) before they start to distort.

This set left me wanting only in the bass frequencies, especially at low volume. Though I found that backing the speakers to within 6 inches of a wall improved the bass response, if you value a consistent presence of low end or plan to use these for a home-theater setup, they would do well to pair with a small subwoofer - but, so would any speakers of this size.

A project to build my own speakers that sound as good as any I could buy? Yes please.