Speaker Face-off I: Battle of the Budget Towers
- Pinnacle Classic Gold Tower
- Pinnacle Classic Gold Reference
- Polk RT600
- Infinity RS5
- Bose 701
Pinnacle Classic Gold Towers
The Classic Gold Series from Pinnacle represents their best current offering of speakers. Their product line extends from the small, yet potent, bookshelf speakers called the "Mini-Monitors" to the infamous flagship floorstanders called the "Aerogel Towers".
The Classic Gold Towers (Retail $1095/pair; street price $800/pair) and houses (2) 8" paper cone woofers with rubber surrounds and a 1î Aluminum dome tweeter and stands 37 7/8" X 9 5/8" X 15 1/4". These speakers come with gold plated binding posts offering the capability for them to be bi-wired or bi-amped. They also include solid brass isolation cones which help to decouple the cabinet from the floor and thus tightening up the bass response. These speakers are the most expensive of the models reviewed and are one of the largest, second in height only to the Infinity RS-5. With their big size, comes a lot of sound.
These speakers have the greatest bass capability of all the others in this review. They also throw off the largest soundstage which helps them escape the boxy closed in sound commonly found in budget floor-standing speaker systems such as this one.
The high end on these speakers is excellent for a speaker in its class. The treble is very detailed and articulate, never sounding compressed during high output levels. Imaging is also particularly good on this system which may be attributed to the carefully designed crossover utilizing better than average parts. The bass capability of these speakers is impressive, because, not only do they play deep, but the also play tight. The weakest sound characteristic of these speakers is their midrange. While the midrange is not horribly bad, it could be better considering how well everything else sounds. Female voices come across as slightly nasally and closed in compared to their flagship model (Aerogels). It is however not fair to compare the Towers with the Aerogels as the Aerogels retail for about $600 more than the Towers and the Aerogels feature a 5 1/4" superb Audax Aerogel Midrange and better cross-over sections. We did feel the Classic Gold Reference had a more natural sounding midrange than the Towers. This may be attributed to the fact that a 6.5" woofer produced by the same manufacturer and materials will almost always outperform its bigger 8" counterpart with respect to midrange frequencies.
Pinnacle Classic Gold Reference
The Classic Gold Reference is the little brother to the Towers standing 33" X 8 3/8" X 13 1/4". They have a retail price of $895/pair and a street price of around $650/pair. The driver topology is identical to that of the larger Towers except the Reference utilizes 6.5" woofers as opposed to 8". The Reference cannot be bi-wired or bi-amped, but we feel this is not much of an issue since most people who purchase speakers in this price range would not use this feature. The Reference stands 4 7/8" shorter than the Towers, but the sound they convey is quite large.
While they give up a slight soundstage presence and bass punch compared to the larger Towers, they are superior in midrange performance. The Reference have a better overall tonal balance and sound cleaner and more natural. Don't be fooled by the small size of these speakers as they have excellent bass response that is both deep and accurate. I had to look around the room several times to ensure there weren't any hidden powered subs when listening to these speakers.
We feel the Reference is a better value than the Towers because of their better overall sound quality and lower price. The Reference speakers had the richest sound compared to all the speakers in this review. They really separated instruments well as opposed to most systems in this price range which tend to smear the finer details. If a small pair of inexpensive full range floor standing speakers is what you are after, I don't believe you can do much better than the Pinnacle Classic Gold Reference.
The Polk RT600 is a floor standing speaker with a 6.5" woofer and 1" tweeter retailing for about $680 / pair with a street price of about $550/pair. The build quality of the RT600 is the best of the speakers reviewed here. It has the nicest finish and feel to them. While the build quality is very good, the sound quality is another story. I am not implying that these speakers sound badly, but they are not even in the same class as the Pinnacle Classic Gold Reference. They do have decent punch to them and the bass is reasonably tight, but they lack refinement in the mids and highs. They tend to smear instruments and sound boxed in compared to the Pinnacles and even the Infinity RS-5's. I feel the RT55 bookshelf speakers from Polk is superior to the RT600 in sound quality. This is mostly attributed to the dual 6.5" woofers found in the RT55 as opposed to the single 6.5" woofer in the RT600. This is a prime example of how a bookshelf speaker from the same company can outperform one of their own floor standing speaker systems. In this case, don't waste your money on the larger cabinet, the better value is with the bookshelf speaker with a more ellaborate driver compliment.
The Infinity RS-5 is a floor standing speaker with dual 6.5" drivers in D'applito configuration and a 1" soft dome tweeter that retail for $900 and have a street price of $700. The Infinities are the largest of the speakers reviewed standing 40" X 7 1/2" X 12 1/2". In my opinion have the worst build quality of the bunch with the exception of the Bose 701's.
The RS-5 have a very broad soundstage to them and they image well. I felt the midrange on these speakers was clearer and more up front that that of the Pinnacle Towers but not quite as good as the Pinnacle Reference. The highs were very detailed and clean, second only to the Pinnacle Reference. I felt the Reference had more refinement in the highs than the RS-5.
The weakest sound characteristic to the RS-5 was its over emphasis on mid bass. In many cases, music sounded bloated and boomy. I believe this is attributed to the low quality of the cabinets and possibly the lack of proper insulation and/or bracing. I preferred the sound of the RS-5 over the RT600's and Towers in music which did not contain much mid bass emphasis. Although, once I feed these speakers some bass intense music, it was clear to me that these speakers require careful set-up and that they are not for everyone. However, I can certainly appreciate what these speakers offer.
The Bose 701 speaker system is much different from the other speakers in this review. They stand 32 1/2" X 10 1/4" X 12 1/2" and have a retail price of $838 for a pair and have little or no discount thanks to Bose's price fixing policy. These speakers are unique in that they:
- Have the worst overall build quality
- The only speakers in this review that utilize paper drivers for the tweeters and midrange.
- Have the highest retail price which is not proportional to their performance.
The Bose 701 has dual 8" woofers, (1) 6.5" side firing midrange and (2) 2" paper tweeters. The 2" paper tweeters are too large for the task of high frequencies. The treble coming out of the 701's is very unrefined, raspy, and undetailed . The midrange sounded muddy, bloated, and 2 dimensional. It was extremely difficult to get these speakers to image properly as the sound just seemed to blare out in all directions with no uniformity or tonal consistency.
The bass extension was impressive for this speaker system and was the only minor strong point I found about this system. However, switching back and forth between the Bose 701's and the Pinnacle Reference was like night and day. Picture how your voice sounds when you try to speak 5 feet underwater. Now imagine how much clearer your voice sounds once you have lifted your head above sea level. The 701's represent your head 5' under water while the Reference puts you on a nice beach chair far above sea level, sipping Pina Coladas with a slightly cool breeze coming from the NE. In other words the Pinnacle Reference, and even all of the other speaker systems reviewed here crushed the Bose 701's with respect to overall fidelity, build quality, and value. After my listening session with these speakers, it is my opinion that Bose should change their slogan to "Better Sales Thru Marketing..."
- Yamaha RXV-2095 Receiver
- Sony DVP S3000 DVD Player
Picking in order of what I found to be the best and worst sounding speakers, here are my rankings.
1. Pinnacle Classic Gold Reference
2. Pinnacle Classic Gold Tower
3. Infinity RS-5
4. Polk RT600
5. Bose 701
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