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Speaker Face-Off III: Conclusions

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There really were no overall obvious winners in this review.  It is all a matter of personal tastes, budget and requirements that should ultimately guide you on your purchasing decision.  Make no mistake, in most cases you do get what you pay for.  Anyone telling you a $400 pair of speakers will be as good as an $2000 pair of speakers is either smoking something or comparing a legitimately well designed $400 speaker to an esoteric "audiophile" voodoo $2000 speaker system.

We felt that the most intimate, articulate and natural sounding loudspeakers were clearly the RBH 61-LSE's.  They displayed an uncanny ability to disappear in the room and just sound REAL.  They were best suited for a high-end two-channel set-up in small to medium size rooms and also worked very well in larger rooms when coupled with a musical subwoofer.  They were the least efficient loudspeakers in the review, requiring significantly more amplification power to achieve similar SPL levels of the others.  However, this speaker gets our unconditional recommendation for the serious audiophile who demands nothing less than excellence.

The Monitor Audio GR-10's yielded similar performance to the RBH loudspeakers with a tad less detail and openness in the highs, depth in soundstage, and overall low end frequency extension, but with a more forwardly presented midrange and dynamic nature and higher efficiency. Both the RBH and Monitor Audio loudspeakers should be coupled with the best of electronics in a moderately well to excellent acoustical environment to achieve the ultimate performance.

The Paradigm Studio 40v2 were the most rugged, and dynamic performers in this review.  They were more than capable of reaching SPL levels high enough to satisfy all but the most desensitized ears in medium to large size rooms.  They worked well with moderately priced electronics and high end separates, thus providing the ultimate slam without a subwoofer in small to medium size rooms and with a subwoofer in larger living rooms.  They did however tend to be a bit fussy about room placement when asked to work in smaller rooms.  Thus we felt their best sound character was achieved in medium to large sized living rooms in a home theater type configuration.

The Axiom Audio M22ti's were truly a surprise performer given their size and price.  They were capable of achieving many virtues of the high fidelity sound of the more expensive RBH and Monitor Audio loudspeakers in small to medium sized rooms.  However, their anemic bass response, slightly compressed dynamic structure and somewhat sibilant nature made a subwoofer a requirement when listening to bass intense music on these speakers.  They didn't require much power to achieve high SPL output in small to medium sized rooms and thus would serve well for both music and home theater in budget to moderately priced systems.

The B&W DM602S1 were adequate overall performers.  But it was hard to give them our personal recommendation considering we unanimously believed the Axiom Audio's sounded better and were at a lower price point.  We realize the DM602S1 are not a current product line of B&W, but it was an interesting experiment to compare these highly acclaimed speakers to a more cost sensitive system such as the ones from Axiom Audio.  We are confident that the DM602S3 would be a marked improvement over the S1 version and if the opportunity presents itself, we will update this review with that of the S3 version when we acquire review samples.

We recommend steering clear from the Alon Napoleon system.  Although we did not evaluate the Thunderbolt subwoofer, the Napoleon Satellites were less than pleasing to listen to, and were at a price point that their sub par performance was inexcusable.  Perhaps when Alon completes further design improvements to this product, we will have a more positive review to report.

As always our recommendation is to listen to these speakers yourself to determine what best suits your listening preferences, requirements, budget, and system accommodations.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • — Excellent
  • — Very Good
  • — Good
  • — Fair
  • — Poor

Alon Napoleon

$2499/set ($700 w/o Sub)

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStar


Performance StarStar
Value StarStarhalf-star


 B&W 602S1

$599/pair

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStarStarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStarStar


Performance StarStarhalf-star
Value StarStarStar


Paradigm Studio 40v2

$1200/pair

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStarStarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStarStar


Performance StarStarStarStar
Value StarStarStar


 RBH Signature 61-LSE

$1795/pair

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStarStar


Performance StarStarStarStarStar
Value StarStarStarStarhalf-star


 Monitor Audio GR-10

$1495/pair

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStarStar


Performance StarStarStarStarhalf-star
Value StarStarStarStar


 Axiom Audio M22ti

$400/pair

Metric Rating
Build Quality StarStarStar
Appearance StarStarStarStar
Treble Extension StarStarStarStar
Treble Smoothness StarStarStarStar
Midrange Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Bass Extension StarStarStar
Bass Accuracy StarStarStarStar
Imaging StarStarStarStar
Soundstage StarStarStarStar
Dynamic Range StarStarStar


Performance StarStarStarhalf-star
Value StarStarStarStarhalf-star


 

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