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Round 1: Polk Audio Monitor 30 vs. Hsu Research HB-1

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Shoot_faceoff1.JPGRound 1 Price Category: $200 - $250

Clint DeBoer: To us, we were listening to "Speaker 1" and "Speaker 2" but since this writing is occurring after the fact we will divulge information in a "hindsight" fashion as if we knew exactly which speaker we were listening to at the time of the face-off. This makes for easier reading and much less semantics as we explain what we heard. As we began, the Polk Audio Monitor 30s came up first and the first thing I heard was some hard-hitting upper-mids with somewhat crispy highs (perhaps a tad overaccentuated). Imaging was excellent - both wide and spacious. After some time we felt that the system was slightly fatiguing on the ears - keeping in mind of course that we were putting some serious power through these speakers due to the room size and acoustics. The Hsu HB-1 came across with somewhat muddy mids and loose bass. There is a nice tight bass line and kick drum on the "Chant" track by Fourplay and it wasn't nearly as pleasing on the Hsu as with the Polk Audio speakers. The speakers sounded recessed and imaging seemed to localize to the speaker whenever you moved your head to the side. It would be assumed that when paired with a good subwoofer, the bass would not be as much of an issue, but it seemed that the system went too low for its own good and the results were unflattering. The Polk Audio speakers took this competition, though I would have to listen at somewhat lower levels to avoid fatigue.

Gene DellaSala: I think this is one face off we all reached a consensus on. Switching between the Polk’s and HSU’s was literally a night and day difference. i was quite surprised that the little Polks were outgunning a speaker that was nearly twice its size. In a non-acoustically controlled room, I could see the Polk’s getting irritating real quickly so it’s really best to know your environment and listening preferences when choosing between speakers. I concur with J that the grills should definitely be left on with the Polks and I recommend no toe in and perhaps a small degree of toe out with these speakers. The HSU’s should be setup in more of a nearfield listening environment and bass managed to get the best performance out of them. It’s hard to really complain about speakers in this price class so it's important to keep that into perspective when reading our critiques.

Tom Andry: In my mind, the Polks were the clear winner in this contest. While I recognized the extreme treble (these speakers could quickly become fatiguing), the imaging and soundstange was significantly superior to the competition. The HSU HB-1's just seemed to be swallowed up by the room and I had a hard time discerning any sort of soundstage or detail. The lack of detail was most confusing as that is an attribute generally associated with horn-loaded speakers. The Polks were harsh, but from a consumer's perspective, that is something that could be tamed with a tone control or placement. You can get rid of too much treble; it's hard to get it when the speaker isn't producing it.

J. Walker Clarke: The Polk's were immediately impressive to me because of the detail in their higher frequency reproduction. The highs were bright, crisp and well defined. It could be argued that they were at times a little harsh, but as long as the grills remained on I found them to be pleasing to my ear. Detailed highs, with moderately tight bass for their size. The HSU's has much less definition in the high end, and displayed a noisy midrange. They had a more robust bottom end, but overall lost out to the Polk Audio pair. When listening to Steely Dan, I found them to sound muffled next to the Polk's, as if someone had thrown a quilt over them. The Polk Audio's were the clear winners to my ears.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

warpdrive posts on September 05, 2007 23:31
Guiria, post: 302038
I find it interesting that reviews away from this one regarding the X-LS are all great, positive, and people boast the ID concept as a better bang for your buck than speaker companies using brick and mortar distribution etc. Then this review has a slightly less expensive (than X-LS) model of Polk's from a line available at Circuit City that appear to be equally if not better than the super valued X-LS.

I now doubt my internet direct beliefs which were “You get more for your dollar going ID”.

There is more wisdom in auditioning several speakers before purchasing than many believe.

Thank you for writing a review that challenges my hyped up notions from all the forum buzz out there, and a review that has made me a wiser consumer.

I hope other people read this and come to the realization you did (thanks to this review). There are no absolutes in the audio world.

My observations:
ID brands are not always a better value than B&M brands sonically.
Price only loosely correlates to sound quality when comparing brands.
Sound quality is highly variable among different speaker brands.
Tex-amp posts on September 05, 2007 02:25
Another rave review for the Sierra I in the September issue of Affordable Audio. http://www.affordableaudio.org/
Tex-amp posts on September 02, 2007 00:31
PENG, post: 303908
You may be right about the B&Ws, but Paradigm? Don't they offer products from US$120 a pair Cinema series all the way up to US$6,000 top of the line Signature series? I would say they can compete at all levels except the real high end level such as the B&W80X Diamond series and beyond.

I think the poster is referring to Paradigm offerings at the same price point.

This is what a reviewer had to say about the Sierra 1 and where it matches up with Paradigm…

With the Ascend Acoustics, something did: From the very beginning, I could tell that the Sierra-1 had outstanding clarity, and was conveying much more low-level detail than any other under-$1000 two-way I’d ever heard – qualities that became even more apparent when I sat down to do some critical listening. In fact, the Sierra-1’s ability to let me hear into recordings was right up there with Paradigm’s Signature S2 and PSB’s Platinum M2, two of the best two-way monitors on the market, and each of which sells for about two grand per pair. (I own a pair of Signature S2s.)
http://www.soundstageav.com/onhifi.html
PENG posts on August 31, 2007 19:11
silversurfer, post: 303610
Have you actually done side by side comparisons?

At the same price points, I would agree that PSB and Energy have comparable product, but not Paradigm and B&W. Again, none of them can touch the finish of the X-LS.

You may be right about the B&Ws, but Paradigm? Don't they offer products from US$120 a pair Cinema series all the way up to US$6,000 top of the line Signature series? I would say they can compete at all levels except the real high end level such as the B&W80X Diamond series and beyond.
silversurfer posts on August 31, 2007 18:34
anamorphic96, post: 303870
But getting back to the main point. All of these speaker companies being talked about are like great bottles of wine. Each has a slightly different character.
It's all subjective. One mans neutral is another man's bright. Just because someone doesn't like a certain companies character does mean its a bad speaker. Their just not the flavor you like.
If that is the case, then everything is comparable.
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