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Recomendations needed on the ARX line

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  • Recomendations needed on the ARX line

    I'm in the market for speakers for my HT setup. I'm about 70/30 movies/music but the 30% is VERY important to me.

    I have some experience with higher end speakers, and am looking for an exceptional value. While I'm willing to accept that I may not be happy at this price range, i'm not willing to settle...i'll just wait till my price range meets my expectaions :-)

    I've tried SVS SCS-02(m) and while they are not bad speakers, they simply do not fit my needs. I'm currently considering HSU HB1-mk2's, Wharfedale Evo2-10's, and most recently ARX A2's. Each 'set' would be purchased with the voice matched center and later the surrounds. LFE will currently be handled by an appartment friendly KEF sub (or just re-directed to the mains to keep neighbors happy). In 13 months I will be moving into a house and at that time will be picking up a propper sub (if today that would be the Hsu VTF3.3).

    I've just left* a HT setup with a Klipsch Refrence 7 channel setup and a Phasetech Power12. * I moved out of a house that I've shared with a roomate for the past 10 years to move in with my I'm rebuilding!

    I am going to copy/paste a bit from a different forum so you may get an Idea of where i'm at/looking for.

    In refrence to the SVS SCS-02 set:
    I've had the speakers in place for about a week now and I have mixed feelings about them. Please take the following evaluation with a grain of sand, as I'm not comparing them with their price range, just using my own thoughts.


    Understated astetics that help the speakers disappear, VERY neutral sound, good detail at higher volumes, non fatiguing, better than expected imaging and weight of sound.


    They are not as mid-forward as I would have expected from a M-t-M speaker. The center especially keeps me thinking that I need to nudge up the center gain a bit. At low-moderate volumes they do not have the detail that I was hoping for. I often find myself wishing dialogue was a bit stronger in just about everything I watch.

    Movies- These speakers do a surprisingly good job with being seamless across the front stage and don't drive you out of the room with an overly bright experience, like so many HT speakers can do trying to "sizzle".

    Pardon my broad conclusion but here goes:
    Musically, they sound about where I expected - HT tasked speakers that don't really keep me wanting to go through my music collection to "re-listen" to songs/albums. The best way I can describe them is by comparing them to a particular Movie Theater chain. These speakers (at volume) sound EVERY BIT as good as any of the "side" Movie Theaters in a Cinemark Movie house, but nowhere near the dynamic impact and detail of Cinemark's XD theaters. For the Price, I'd say they are amazing speakers that would satisfy 90% of the listeners out there (the same group that would rather NOT pay an additional 4 dollars for a seat in the XD theater). Personally, I think that I've been exposed to a little bit higher end, and am going to need to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Focal Utopia's in the car could be the cause.

    I know it's VERY unfair to hold a budget speaker to the standard of $1200 components...but I had to give them a shot.

    Now, I have 3 contenders in mind (still exploring the bang for budget sector):

    STILL: Wharfedale Evo2-10's (and matching Center)
    HSU HB-1 mk2 and center

    Arx A2 x 3 or A3x2 +A2

    I'll try and do a little more of an in-depth review when I get time. Great speakers, just not for me.
    In response to a question of Center Chnl Placement:
    My center channel is not ideal, but is not at all terrible. I have a Mists 73838 and matching stand. The center shelf is set to it's lowest setting to accommodate the Center Channel and Receiver Height. On this shelf the CC Tweeter level is about 24" below ear level but I have played with the tilt angle extensively. The Yamaha RX-A2000 uses YAMMO or w/e it's called. But does an 8position calibration with a pretty slick parametric eq. I either set the eq to "through" meaning it does 0 work, or on "Front" so that it only timbre matches the front 3 speakers. (Flat timbre matches the whole system).

    I spent some time late last night, and early this morning just listening to music. These speakers are impressive, and once you take into consideration the cost they are AMAZING. They give a broad soundstage and image extremely well.

    What they don’t do is make me forget that I have other places to listen to music :-) The "tonal quality" of my mobile Audio setup is pretty hard to beat, but I never got around to making it image the way it should (by building custom kickpanels/pods for the mids and time aligning the tweets). At work I have a set of Audio engine A2's that (near field) produce a 3d image and expansive soundstage that is a lot of fun to listen to. STRONG mids, very detailed highs, and good midbass (sometimes a little too hot).

    For music, I'd like something in-between. Something with an exciting Mid/detailed high, convincing soundstage and great dynamics. For movies I love quick, dynamic sound with startling vocal clarity.

    Last night I watched "Morning Glory" on Blue Ray(I did mention I live with my Fiancé, right). Although I would hardly consider it reference material, it does have a lot of good dialogue with a good musical score. There were times that the music and ambiant noise just overtook the dialogue. I DID end up bumping the Center Gain abit and it helped tremendously....until an effect panned across the screen and it was comically unbalanced. Kind of an "exit door effect" in a movie theater.

    Anway, I'm a little bummed that these didn't do the trick, but I'm back in a familiar place...trying to imagine what I'd like!

    I did an in-home audition of Nautilus 804's about 10 years ago and loved them. I almost liked the 805's better in a HT setup. I know I’ve got high expectations and am looking at entry level pricing, I’m holding out hope that there is a gem out there...kinda like a Corvette C6 being hailed as a super car for 1/3 the price!

    Sorry for the wall of text. But I was hoping to get some input since the experience is a little thin with ARX on the AVSforum (as with the wharfedales).

    Current thoughts are:
    HSU- Dynamic and detailed but may leave me wanting for a high end sub NOW, larger than normal toe-in may cause a smaller "sweet spot" in my listening area.

    Wharfedale- Posibly the most musical of the offerings (thinking prior to learning of arx), should stand alone without a sub for now, ooh Kevelar drivers and pretty curves...and a good percieved value (currently 50% off entire evo2 line). May have that "sleepy" sound brittish speakers have a tendancy to lean toward.

    Arx-WOW, that's a lot of tech packed into a low price. Seems like they would be just what I'm looking for in terms of musical excitement and HT dynamics. The planar-mag tweeters that I've had the oppertunity to hear in the past have NOT left me wanting for detail, however they have had a fairly unforgiving sweet spot for listening...but 'unconventional' speakers were never really thought to be in my price range.

    I've read about everything I could find, and I'm overly impressed with Jon Lanes Knowledge and involvement with the community. It shows a lot of class and passioin for his products! BTJ has also been one of the posters that have really made me take notice of this line. I LOOOOOVE live music. I often thought that working the sound board in large venue's would be a dream job. I go to more concerts than my wallet likes, and spent a log time in my 20's working in local bars that had live music nightly (The Bluelight Live for anyone from Texas). The idea that someone with BTJ's background was so taken with these speakers is encouraging!

    I'd love to say that I always listen to refrence music, but that's just not the case. I listen to a lot of jazz, but more often than not it's Texas Country, Metal (from maintstream to the cookie monster variety), Rap (enough to identify the songs in BTJ's vid's), and Classic Rock. Arx dont seem to shy away from any of that!

  • #2

    I am biased toward the ARX A3's/A2's for the price.

    Now that I got that out of the way, here goes my actual answer.

    I've heard the HSU's and they sound very good, but they are NOT very efficient and their sweet spot is small, much like Klipsch RB52's. The HSU's sweet spot was noticeably smaller than the A3's I currently use for L+R. They also pale in comparison to the A2's (I currently run an A2 for my center) in terms of bass accuracy and bass output. The wharfdale's have always been overpriced...I think their discounted price is more indicative of their actual level of value/performance. For their clearance prices, they are good speakers.

    The sweet spot I have with the A3's covers my couch (7 feet wide), from a distance of about 10-11 feet. The A2's, oriented horizontally (in d'appolito fashion), would have an even larger sweet spot.

    I can assure you that the ARX series not only have great drivers, but they all have high quality crossover components that have been selected by Jon for this specific application. They also have their crossover's final tuning done by ear (Thank Jon Lane for this), not by machine and not slaved to a pre-determined 'flat response'. I punctuate 'flat response' like that because, in-room, NO SPEAKER is flat. Even with Audyssey MultEQ XT32.

    The A3's have a slight BBC curve engineered in...and it works beautifully. It's also essentially removable, if desired, by using the foam port plugs.

    I can tell you that the tweeter is capable of more resolution than most receiver's can push for under $1500. Some even more expensive than that. I run an Arcam AVR300 and am still amazed at how much resolution I get when listening to, for instance, Diana Krall's "Live In Paris" album on CD.

    The ARX series is good enough to reveal crappy equipment up-stream (much like KEF and B&W, among others). Having heard all of the speakers you are considering, I am openly biased toward the ARX series. If you have any more questions, I'm confident Jon Lane would be able to answer them more than adequately over the phone. Yes, the owner of the company still picks up the phone. :)

    For your sub, HSU subs are amazing. I recently heard the VTF-15 and was quite impressed. I still prefer my eD sealed 1300 watt 18" A7s-450 w/ eQ.2...but only just. The VTF3.3 is a great subwoofer, but it may struggle in larger rooms. My first subwoofer was an original HSU VTF-2 (10" driver, 175 watt amp). My brother bought it from me and still enjoys it to this day.

    SVS subs are also great, though not as much of a value as they used to be. Also, maybe take a look at the Epik Empire, dual sealed 15".

    Regardless, the ARX A2's would easily get you by until you purchase a subwoofer. See my ARX excursion thread to see how much their little midwoofers are capable of...they are quite impressive with their little XBL2 motors. :)


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply!

      The wharfdale's have always been overpriced...I think their discounted price
      is more indicative of their actual level of value/performance. For their
      clearance prices, they are good speakers.
      This is exactly what I've been suspecting. Even on a very Wharfedale friendly forum, I'm starting to get the impression that for their clearance price they are a bit over what they sold for while they were still in production (from STO). Apparently I'm not as immune to a pretty face as I hoped. It's most likely the similarities between the Evo2 line and the B&W Nautilus line that peaked my interest without ever hearing them - Curves, decoupled tweeter (although nothing like the "is that a microphone" tweeters), Kevelar Drivers, MSRP.

      The idea that the Wharfedales would be overwhelmingly musical and have great vocal clarity really came from past experience with completely different speakers. My line of thinking WAS that if a $900 (priced at $450) set of speakers couldn't quite get it done, then i'd adjust my budget to my expectations. Now that I'm coming to understand that they really belong in the <$500 price category their allure is kind of ... meh.

      I GREATLY appreciate your thoughts on the HSU speakers. They constantly get great reviews but you've detailed exactly what I would be afraid of in terms of their sweet spot. The HSU's biggest draw was their reported ability to "get" live music.
      From: Home Theater Sound
      I played drums for a few years in my increasingly distant youth, so I tend be picky about the reproduction of percussion. Few budget speakers even come close to getting it right, so I was shocked when John Bonham’s bass and toms on "Moby Dick" came out solid and tight, with just the right amount of impact. I’ve heard many speakers costing several times the price of the HB-1 that don’t do nearly this well with drums. Very impressive.
      That type of review always makes me take notice, which is EXACTLY why your background means so much to me. A lot of times when you read "Audiophile" reviews I wonder if the reviewer has lost touch of what it's like to be AT a music performance, how many of them would wander into a random bar just because they heard the distinct sound of a cymbal ACTUALLY being struck by a drumstick. Most Pro-Reviewers Focus on the reproduction of the studio engineered sound, which isn't a bad thing, it's just not everything (to me).

      I'm all out of excuses, it's time to give these a listen. Thanks again for your feedback and enthusiasm with this product!


      • #4

        No problem on the opinion. In the A3 excursion thread, I talk with another forum contributor about my background in live audio. No need to toot my own horn and re-hash it here.

        I am definitely the guy who hears a REAL piano (i.e.e NOT A KEYBOARD) from a lounge and wanders over.

        The HSU's sound quite good, and they have good transient response. But they really do tend to tunnel the sound over a relatively small soundstage...much like those Klipsch Reference bookshelves I mentioned. I used to own some Klipsch RB-35 8" reference bookshelf speakers and, despite their large horn (6" or 8" at the mouth, IIRC), they had great dynamics, but they beamed badly. Soundstage depth was good, but they did not play very wide...the sound seemed constrained to the edges of the boxes themselves. The HSU's sounded smoother than any of those Klipsch speakers, but they exhibited the same narrow soundstage.

        I would even say that you not be unhappy with the HSU HB's. BUT, you would be happier, dollar-for-dollar, with the ARX series.

        Please feel free to post here or to PM me if you have any more technical questions.

        I'm not sure why this is, but most of my favorite recordings are live. Diana Krall, Dylan, U2, James Taylor, etc. This usually comes down to actually being able to hear the ambiance of the room, and the drum kits being mic'd well, with the toms, cymbals, and snare being distinguishable from eachother.

        As a personal preference (and philosophy), I would mic and EQ the kick drum pretty 'fat'. I wanted to hear the fullness in the 45-80Hz range and feel it....cuz that's what it feels like when you're standing next to it. ;) My preference was large diaphragm condensers placed slightly into the outer head.

        I have a disdain for people who would shove a bed-set worth of pillows inside the kick body and then EQ so it sounds like somebody slapping a brick wall. That's bull**** and I HATE mixes like that. I usually find that engineers who EQ kick drums like that also struggle with nullifying feedback....they end up getting a ring in the kick because they are sloppy. These people usually also struggle with ringing out stage monitors. But crappy board engineers is a whole other ball of wax...


        • #5
          A2's Delivered

          Three A2's were delivered Saturday around noon! After running a quick 8-position Config with the RX-A2000 I started Transformers 2 (it's on my DVR, and has been a recent watermark). Having JUST hooked them up I was just looking to make sure my ears agreed with the Auto Calibration, and that traffic noise hadn't really thrown it out of whack. The movie started with Optimus Prime's voice and somerandom dynamic action and what happened next was so beyond what I thought could ever happen...that I had to sit for a second and just believe...

          My Fiancé walked in and said, "Wow, those speakers sound amazing! How much more did you spend to get those?"

          "Not a lot, really."

          You would think I just tried to tell her the sky was purple and the moon was made of cheese. So I asked her how much she thinks they cost, based on the SVS speakers (B-stock) being $468 shipped

          "Jesus, did you spend 1k on these?"

          After letting her in on the price, she was happy about how they sounded all over again. Her impression was "They sound richer, more detailed...if that makes sense. I just think these sound more life-like." (not a bad description from somone that doesn't see the value in HT equipment ... but sure does enjoy it)

          My initial impressions are VERY positive. They are immediately more musical than the SVS speakers (not a contest) and are more natural sounding than the Boston CM-9's that were pulling stand-in duty.

          Ok, not the most technical update...but what do you expect when they have less than 20hrs on them. Here in a week or so I'll re-calibrate them and give them a real review!


          • #6
            I started a new thread with a Full(er) review of my time with the Arx A2's. Made a different thread in case it needed to be moved into the review section of the forum.